Enid Starkie was the eldest daughter of Rt. Hon. W.J.M. Starkie and his wife May Caroline Walsh. Her father served as Resident Commissioner of Education for Ireland. The academic Walter Starkie was her brother. She and her siblings learned French and music from a French governess. Enid later wrote, "My French governess never stopped talking of France, and she talked with all the nostalgia of the exile." She was a talented pianist, and won medals at Feis Ceoil, the annual music festival in Dublin. She attended Alexandra College in Dublin, and went on the University of Oxford and the Sorbonne in Paris. She taught modern languages at Exeter and at Oxford. She produced critical studies of the works of Charles Baudelaire (1933), Arthur Rimbaud (1938 and 1947), Andre Gide (1954), and Gustave Flaubert (1967-71). She was instrumental in establishing the poetic reputation of Rimbaud, receiving the first doctorate in the Department of Modern Languages at Oxford for her 1937 book Rimbaud in Abyssinia. She was awarded the Legion d'honneur in 1958, and received the CBE in 1967.