Born in Prague, the son of a retired officer in the Austrian army and a mother who, disappointed of a daughter, treated him as if he were a girl. Of a very refined sensibility from an early age, and deeply scarred by his educationat the Military School of St Pölten between 1886 and 1891, where he was frequently in poor health. Studied at the Commercial Academy in Linz until 1892, and then worked for his barrister uncle. Published his first volume of poems in 1894. Studied at the University of Prague in 1895-6, but by 1899 had decided on a career in literature rather than law. Visited Russia with Lou Andreas-Salomé in 1899 and in 1900, where he met Tolstoy; studied Russian history, literature and art on returning to Berlin. Married a young sculptress he had met in the artist's colony near Bremen in 1901. Became secretary to the sculptor Rodin in Paris in 1902-3 and thereafter lived apart from his wife. Remained based in Paris until 1914, though frequently resident for short periods in Scandinavia, Italy, Spain and North Africa, in great distress of spirit for much of the time. Made many friends among the aristocracy, in the castle of one of whom, at Duino near Trieste, he began the sequence of Elegies which were completed in 1922. Called up for military service in Vienna in 1915, where his health broke down; given clerical work and finally allowed to return to Munich. Spent his last years in Switzerland, widely regarded as the greatest poet to write in German since the death of Goethe. Died of leukaemia at Valmont, near Montreux.
'Ultimately,' Rilke wrote in a late letter,'each of us experiences