Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau
1876 portrait of Gobineau by the Comtesse de la Tour
Joseph Arthur de Gobineau
14 July 1816
|Died||13 October 1882 (aged 66)|
|Occupation||Novelist, diplomat, travel writer|
Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (14 July 1816 – 13 October 1882) was a French aristocrat who is best known for helping to legitimise racism by the use of scientific racist theory and "racial demography" and for developing the theory of the Aryan master race. Known to his contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat and travel writer, he was an elitist who, in the immediate aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848, wrote An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. In it he claimed aristocrats were superior to commoners and they possessed more Aryan genetic traits because of less interbreeding with inferior races—Alpines and Mediterraneans. Modern racial antisemitism goes back to Gobineau.
Gobineau's writings were quickly praised by white supremacist, pro-slavery Americans like Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze, who translated his book into English. They omitted around 1,000 pages of the original book, including those parts that negatively described Americans as a racially mixed population. Inspiring a social movement in Germany named Gobinism, his works were also influential on prominent antisemites like Richard Wagner, Wagner's son-in-law Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Romanian politician Professor A. C. Cuza, and leaders of the Nazi Party, who later edited and re-published his work.
Early life and writings
Gobineau came from an old well-established aristocratic family. His father, Louis de Gobineau (1784–1858), was a military officer and staunch royalist. His mother, Anne-Louise Magdeleine de Gercy, was the daughter of a non-noble royal tax official. The de Gercy family lived in the French Crown colony of Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) for a time in the 18th century. Gobineau always feared he might have black ancestors on his mother's side.
Reflecting his hatred of the French Revolution, Gobineau later wrote: "My birthday is July 14th, the date on which the Bastille was captured-which goes to prove how opposites may come together". As a boy and young man, Gobineau loved the Middle Ages, which he saw as a golden age of chivalry and knighthood much preferable to his own time. Someone who knew Gobineau as a teenager described him as a romantic, "with chivalrous ideas and a heroic spirit, dreaming of what was most noble and most grand".
Gobineau's father was committed to restoring the House of Bourbon and helped the royalist Polignac brothers to escape from France. As punishment he was imprisoned by Napoleon's secret police but was freed when the Allies took Paris in 1814. During the Hundred Days the de Gobineau family fled France. After Napoleon's final overthrow following the Battle of Waterloo, Louis de Gobineau was rewarded for his loyalty to the House of Bourbon by being made a captain in the Royal Guard of King Louis XVIII. The pay for a Royal Guardsman was very low, and the de Gobineau family struggled on his salary.
Magdeleine de Gobineau abandoned her husband for her children's tutor Charles de La Coindière. Together with her lover she took her son and two daughters on extended wanderings across eastern France, Switzerland and the Grand Duchy of Baden. To support herself, she turned to fraud (for which she was imprisoned). His mother became a severe embarrassment to Gobineau, who never spoke to her after he turned twenty.
For the young de Gobineau, committed to upholding traditional aristocratic and Catholic values, the disintegration of his parents' marriage, his mother's open relationship with her lover, her fraudulent acts, and the turmoil imposed by being constantly on the run and living in poverty were all very traumatic.
Gobineau spent the early part of his teenage years in the town of Inzligen where his mother and her lover were staying. He became fluent in German. As a staunch supporter of the House of Bourbon, his father was forced to retire from the Royal Guard after the July Revolution of 1830 brought House of Orléans King Louis-Philippe, Le roi citoyen, ("the Citizen King") to power. He promised to reconcile the heritage of the French Revolution with the monarchy. Given his family's history of supporting the Bourbons, the young Gobineau regarded the July Revolution as a disaster for France. His views were those of a Legitimist committed to a Catholic France ruled over by the House of Bourbon. In 1831, de Gobineau's father took custody of his three children, and his son spent the rest of his adolescence in Lorient, in Brittany.
Gobineau disliked his father, whom he dismissed as a boring and pedantic army officer incapable of stimulating thought. Lorient had been founded in 1675 as a base for the French East India Company as King Louis XIV had grand ambitions for making France the dominant political and economic power in Asia. As those ambitions were unrealized, Gobineau developed a sense of faded glory as he grew up in a city that had been built to be the dominant hub for Europe's trade with Asia. This dream went unrealized, as India became part of the British and not the French empire.
As a young man, Gobineau was fascinated with the Orient, as the Middle East was known in Europe in the 19th century. While studying at the Collège de Bironne in Switzerland, a fellow student recalled: "All of his aspirations were towards the East. He dreamt only of mosques and minarets; he called himself a Muslim, ready to make the pilgrimage to Mecca". Gobineau loved Oriental tales by the French translator Antoine Galland, often saying he wanted to become an Orientalist. He read Arab, Turkish and Persian tales in translation, becoming what the French call a "un orientaliste de pacotille" ("rubbish orientalist"). In 1835, Gobineau failed the entrance exams to the St. Cyr military school.
In September 1835, Gobineau left for Paris with fifty francs in his pocket aiming to become a writer. He moved in with an uncle, Thibaut-Joseph de Gobineau, a Legitimist with an "unlimited" hatred of Louis-Philippe. Reflecting his tendency towards elitism, Gobineau founded a society of Legitimist intellectuals called Les Scelti ("the elect"), which included himself, the painter Guermann John (German von Bohn) and the writer Maxime du Camp.
In the later years of the July Monarchy, Gobineau made his living writing serialized fiction (romans-feuilletons) and contributing to reactionary periodicals. He wrote for the Union Catholique, La Quotidienne, L'Unité, and Revue de Paris. At one point in the early 1840s, Gobineau was writing an article every day for La Quotidienne to support himself. As a writer and journalist, he struggled financially and was forever looking for a wealthy patron willing to support him. As a part-time employee of the Post Office and a full-time writer, Gobineau was desperately poor.
His family background made him a supporter of the House of Bourbon, but the nature of the Legitimist movement dominated by factious and inept leaders drove Gobineau to despair, leading him to write: "We are lost and had better resign ourselves to the fact". In a letter to his father, Gobineau complained of "the laxity, the weakness, the foolishness and—in a word—the pure folly of my cherished party".
At the same time, he regarded French society under the House of Orléans as corrupt and self-serving, dominated by the "oppressive feudalism of money" as opposed to the feudalism of "charity, courage, virtue and intelligence" held by the ancien-régime nobility. Gobineau wrote about July Monarchy France: "Money has become the principle of power and honour. Money dominates business; money regulates the population; money governs; money salves consciences; money is the criterion for judging the esteem due to men".
In this "age of national mediocrity" as Gobineau described it, with society going in a direction he disapproved of, the leaders of the cause to which he was committed being by his own admission foolish and incompetent, and the would-be aristocrat struggling to make ends meet by writing hack journalism and novels, he became more and more pessimistic about the future. Gobineau wrote in a letter to his father: "How I despair of a society which is no longer anything, except in spirit, and which has no heart left". He complained the Legitimists spent their time feuding with one another while the Catholic Church "is going over to the side of the revolution". Gobineau wrote:
Our poor country lies in Roman decadence. Where there is no longer an aristocracy worthy of itself, a nation dies. Our Nobles are conceited fools and cowards. I no longer believe in anything nor have any views. From Louis-Philippe we shall proceed to the first trimmer who will take us up, but only in order to pass us on to another. For we are without fibre and moral energy. Money has killed everything.
Gobineau struck up a friendship and had voluminous correspondence with Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville praised Gobineau in a letter: "You have wide knowledge, much intelligence, and the best of manners". He later gave Gobineau an appointment in the Quai d'Orsay (the French foreign ministry) while serving as foreign minister during the Second Republic of France.
Breakthrough with Kapodistrias article
In 1841, Gobineau scored his first major success when an article he submitted to Revue des deux Mondes was published on 15 April 1841. Gobineau's article was about the Greek statesman Count Ioannis Kapodistrias. At the time, La Revue des Deux Mondes was one of the most prestigious journals in Paris, and being published in it put Gobineau in the same company as George Sand, Théophile Gautier, Philarète Chasles, Alphonse de Lamartine, Edgar Quinet and Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve who were all published regularly in that journal.
On international politics
Gobineau's writings on international politics were generally as pessimistic as his writings on France. He depicted Britain as a nation motivated entirely by hatred and greed and the domination of the British Empire around the globe as a source of regret. Gobineau often attacked King Louis-Phillipe for his pro-British foreign policy, writing that he had "humiliated" France by allowing the British empire to become the world's dominant power. However, reports of the impoverishment of Ireland were a source of satisfaction for Gobineau as he asserted: "It is Ireland which is pushing England into the abyss of revolution".
As Gobineau saw it, the growing power and aggressiveness of Russia were a cause for concern. He regarded the disaster suffered by the British during the retreat from Kabul in the first war with Afghanistan in 1842 as a sign Russia would be the dominant power in Asia, writing: "England, an aging nation, is defending its livelihood and its existence. Russia, a youthful nation, is following its path towards the power that it must surely gain ... The empire of the Tsars is today the power which seems to have the greatest future ... The Russian people are marching steadfastly towards a goal that is indeed known but still not completely defined". Gobineau regarded Russia as an Asian power and felt the inevitable triumph of Russia was a triumph of Asia over Europe.
He had mixed feelings about the German states, praising Prussia as a conservative society dominated by the Junkers. But he worried increasing economic growth promoted by the Zollverein (German Customs Union) was making the Prussian middle class more powerful. Gobineau was critical of the Austrian Empire, writing that the House of Habsburg ruled over a mixed population of ethnic Germans, Magyars, Italians, Slavic peoples, etc., and it was inevitable such a multi-ethnic society would go into decline, while the "purely German" Prussia was destined to unify Germany.
Gobineau was also pessimistic about Italy writing: "Shortly after the condottieri disappeared everything that had lived and flourished with them went too; wealth, gallantry, art and liberty, there remained nothing but a fertile land and an incomparable sky". Gobineau denounced Spain for rejecting "a firm and natural authority, a power rooted in national liberty", predicting that without order imposed by an absolute monarchy, she was destined to sink into a state of perpetual revolution. He was dismissive of Latin America, writing with references to the wars of independence: "The destruction of their agriculture, trade and finances, the inevitable consequence of long civil disorder, did not at all seem to them a price too high to pay for what they had in view. And yet who would want to claim that the half-barbarous inhabitants of Castile or the Algarve or the gauchos on the River Plate really deserve to sit as supreme legislators, in the places which they have contested against their masters with such pleasure and energy".
About the United States, Gobineau wrote: "The only greatness is that of wealth, and as everyone can acquire this, its ownership is independent of any of the qualities reserved to superior natures". Gobineau wrote the United States lacked an aristocracy, with no sense of noblesse oblige ("nobility obligates") as existed in Europe. The American poor suffered worse than the European poor, causing the United States to be a violent society, where greed and materialism were the only values that counted. In general Gobineau was hostile towards people in the Americas, writing that who in the Old World does not know "that the New World knows nothing of kings, princes and nobles?-that on those semi-virgin lands, in human societies born yesterday and scarcely yet consolidated, no one has the right or the power to call himself any greater than the very least of its citizens?"
In 1846, Gobineau married Clémence Gabrielle Monnerot. She had pressed for a hasty marriage as she was pregnant by their mutual friend Pierre de Serre who had abandoned her. As a practicing Catholic, she did not wish to give birth to an illegitimate child. Monnerot had been born in Martinique. As with his mother, Gobineau was never entirely certain if his wife, and hence his two daughters had black ancestors or not, as it was a common practice for French slave masters in the Caribbean to take a slave mistress. Gobineau's opposition to slavery, which he held always resulted in harmful miscegenation to whites, stemmed from his own personal anxieties that his mother or his wife might have African ancestry.
Early diplomatic work and theories on race
Gobineau's novels and poems of the 1830s–40s were usually set in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance with aristocratic heroes who by their very existence uphold all of the values Gobineau felt were worth celebrating like honor and creativity against a corrupt, soulless middle class. His 1847 novel Ternove was the first time Gobineau linked class with race, writing "Monsieur de Marvejols would think of himself, and of all members of the nobility, as of a race apart, of a superior essence, and he believed it criminal to sully this by mixture with plebeian blood." The novel, set against the backdrop of the Hundred Days of 1815, concerns the disastrous results when an aristocrat Octave de Ternove unwisely marries the daughter of a miller.
Gobineau was horrified by the Revolution of 1848 and disgusted by what he saw as the supine reaction of the European upper classes to the revolutionary challenge. Writing in the spring of 1848 about the news from Germany he noted: "Things are going pretty badly ... I do not mean the dismissal of the princes—that was deserved. Their cowardice and lack of political faith make them scarcely interesting. But the peasants, there they are nearly barbarous. There is pillage, and burning, and massacre—and we are only at the beginning."
As a Legitimist, Gobineau disliked the House of Bonaparte and was displeased when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected president of the republic in 1848. However, he came to support Bonaparte as the best man to preserve order, and in 1849, when Tocqueville became Foreign Minister, his friend Gobineau became his chef de cabinet.
Beginning of Gobineau's racial theories
Shocked by the Revolution of 1848, Gobineau first expressed his racial theories in his 1848 epic poem Manfredine. In it he revealed his fear of the revolution being the beginning of the end of aristocratic Europe, with common folk descended from lesser breeds taking over. The poem, set at the time of the revolt in Naples against Spanish rule in 1647 (an allegory for 1848), concerns the eponymous character, a noblewoman on whom Gobineau spends a good five hundred lines tracing her descent from Viking ancestors. It features the lines:
Et les Germains, montrant leur chevelure blonde, Que portaient leurs aïeux, dans tous les coins du monde, Paraissent pour régner. Neptune et son trident, Servent l'Anglo-Saxon, leur dernier descendant, Et les déserts peuplés de la jeune Amérique, Connaissenet le pouvior de ce peuple héroïque, Mais Romains, Allemands, Gaulois, [...] Pour en finir, Ce qui n'est pas Germain est créé pour servir.
And the Germans, displaying the blond hair of their ancestors, emerged to rule in every corner of the world. Neptune and his trident serve the Anglo-Saxon, their last descendant, and the peopled deserts of young America know the strength of this heroic people. But as to the Romans, Alemanni, Gauls, [...] to put it briefly, those who are not German are created to serve.
Theory on French aristocrats
Reflecting his disdain for ordinary people, Gobineau claimed French aristocrats like himself were the descendants of the Germanic Franks who conquered the Roman province of Gaul in the fifth century AD, while common French people were the descendants of racially inferior Celtic and Mediterranean people. This was an old theory first promoted in a tract by Count Henri de Boulainvilliers. He had argued that the Second Estate (the aristocracy) was of "Frankish" blood and the Third Estate (the commoners) were of "Gaulish" blood. Born after the French Revolution had destroyed the idealized Ancien Régime of his imagination, Gobineau felt a deep sense of pessimism regarding the future.
For him the French Revolution, having destroyed the racial basis of French greatness by overthrowing and in many cases killing the aristocracy, was the beginning of a long, irresistible process of decline and degeneration, which could only end with the utter collapse of European civilization. He felt what the French Revolution had begun the Industrial Revolution was finishing; industrialization and urbanization were a complete disaster for Europe.
Like many other European romantic conservatives, Gobineau looked back nostalgically at an idealized version of the Middle Ages as an idyllic agrarian society living harmoniously in a rigid social order. He loathed modern Paris, a city he called a "giant cesspool" full of les déracinés ("the uprooted")—the criminal, impoverished, drifting men with no real home. Gobineau considered them to be the monstrous products of centuries of miscegenation ready to explode in revolutionary violence at any moment. He was an ardent opponent of democracy, which he claimed was mere "mobocracy"—a system that allowed the utterly stupid mob the final say on running the state.
Time in Switzerland and Germany
He was stationed in Hanover in the fall of 1851 as acting Chargé d'Affaires, and was impressed by the "traces of real nobility" he said he saw at the Hanoverian court. Gobineau especially liked the blind King George V whom he saw as a "philosopher-king" and to whom he dedicated the Essais. He praised the "remarkable character" of Hanoverian men and likewise commended Hanoverian society as having "an instinctive preference for hierarchy" with the commoners always deferring to the nobility, which he explained on racial grounds.
In January 1854, Gobineau was sent as First Secretary to the French legation at the Free City of Frankfurt. Of the Federal Convention of the German Confederation that sat in Frankfurt—also known as the "Confederation Diet"—Gobineau wrote: "The Diet is a business office for the German bureaucracy—it is very far from being a real political body". Gobineau hated the Prussian representative at the Diet, Prince Otto von Bismarck, because of his advances towards Madame Gobineau. By contrast, the Austrian representative, General Anton von Prokesch-Osten became one of Gobineau's best friends. He was a reactionary Austrian soldier and diplomat who hated democracy and saw himself as a historian and orientalist, and for all these reasons Gobineau bonded with him. It was during these periods that Gobineau began to write less often to his old liberal friend Tocqueville and more often to his new conservative friend Prokesch-Osten.
Gobineau's racial theories
In his own lifetime, Gobineau was known as a novelist, a poet and for his travel writing recounting his adventures in Iran and Brazil rather than for the racial theories for which he is now mostly remembered. However, he always regarded his book Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines (An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races) as his masterpiece and wanted to be remembered as its author. A firm reactionary who believed in the innate superiority of aristocrats over commoners—whom he held in utter contempt—Gobineau embraced the now-discredited doctrine of scientific racism to justify aristocratic rule over racially inferior commoners.
Gobineau came to believe race created culture. He argued that distinctions among the three races—"black", "white", and "yellow"—were natural barriers; "race-mixing" breaks those barriers and leads to chaos. Of the three races, he argued blacks were physically very strong but incapable of intelligent thought. Regarding the "yellows" (Asians) he claimed they were physically and intellectually mediocre but had an extremely strong materialism that allowed them to achieve certain results. Finally, Gobineau wrote whites were the best and greatest of the three races as they alone were capable of intelligent thought, creating beauty and were physically the most beautiful. "The white race originally possessed the monopoly of beauty, intelligence and strength" he claimed, and any positive qualities the Asians and blacks possessed was due to subsequent miscegenation.
Within the white race, there was a further subdivision between the Aryans, who were the epitome of all that was great about the white race and non-Aryans. Gobineau took the term Aryan ("light one" or "noble one") from Hindu legend and mythology, which describes how the Indian subcontinent was conquered at some time in the distant past by the Aryans. This is generally believed to have reflected folk memories of the arrival of the Indo-European peoples into the Indian subcontinent. In the 19th century, there had been much public interest in the discovery by Orientalists like William Jones of the Indo-European languages, and that apparently unrelated languages such as English, Irish, Albanian, Italian, Greek, Russian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Kurdish, Persian and so forth were all part of the same family of languages spoken across a wide swath of Eurasia from Ireland to India. The ancient Hindu scriptures with their tales of Aryan heroes were of major interest to scholars attempting to trace the origins of the Indo-European peoples. Gobineau equated language with race and mistakenly believed the Indo-European peoples were a racial rather than a linguistic group.
Gobineau believed the white race had originated somewhere in Siberia, the Asians in the Americas and the blacks in Africa. He thought the numerical superiority of the Asians had forced the whites to make a vast migration that led them into Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent; both the Bible and Hindu legends about the conquering Aryan heroes reflected folk memories of this migration. In turn, the whites had broken into three sub-races, namely the Hamitic, Semitic and Japhetic peoples. The latter were the Aryans of Hindu legends and were the best and greatest of all the whites.
Racial magnum opus: An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
In his An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, published in 1855, Gobineau ultimately accepts the prevailing Christian doctrine that all human beings shared the common ancestors Adam and Eve (monogenism as opposed to polygenism). He suggests, however, that "nothing proves that at the first redaction of the Adamite genealogies the colored races were considered as forming part of the species"; and, "We may conclude that the power of producing fertile offspring is among the marks of a distinct species. As nothing leads us to believe that the human race is outside this rule, there is no answer to this argument." He originally wrote that, given the past trajectory of civilization in Europe, white race miscegenation was inevitable and would result in growing chaos. Despite his claims whites were the most beautiful of the races, he believed Asian and black women had immense powers of sexual attraction over white men. Whenever whites were in close proximity to blacks and Asians, the result was always miscegenation as white men were seduced by Asian and black women, to the detriment of whites. Though not expressly obsessed with antisemitism, Gobineau saw the Jews as praiseworthy for their ability to avoid miscegenation while at the same time depicting them as another alien force for the decay of Aryan Europe.
Gobineau thought the development of civilization in other periods was different from his own, and speculated that other races might have superior qualities in those civilizations. But, he believed European civilization represented the best of what remained of ancient civilizations and held the most superior attributes capable for continued survival. Gobineau stated he was writing about races, not individuals: examples of talented black or Asian individuals did not disprove his thesis of the supposed inferiority of the black and Asian races. He wrote:
I will not wait for the friends of equality to show me such and such passages in books written by missionaries or sea captains, who declare some Wolof is a fine carpenter, some Hottentot a good servant, that a Kaffir dances and plays the violin, that some Bambara knows arithmetic… Let us leave aside these puerilities and compare together not men, but groups.
Gobineau argued that race was destiny, declaring rhetorically:
So the brain of a Huron Indian contains in undeveloped form an intellect which is absolutely that same as an Englishman or a Frenchman! Why then, in the course of the ages has he not then invented printing or steam power?
Focus on Aryans as a superior race
Gobineau claimed the Aryans had founded the ten great civilizations of the world, writing: "In the ten civilizations no Negro race is seen an initiator. Only when it is mixed with some other, can it even be initiated into a civilization. Similarly, no spontaneous civilization is to be found among the yellow races; and when the Aryan blood is exhausted stagnation supervenes". Gobineau, mindful of his own supposed noble and Frankish descent classified the Germanic peoples as being the Aryans in Europe.
He believed Aryans had also moved into India and Persia. Gobineau used medieval Persian epic poetry, which he treated as completely historically accurate accounts, together with the beauty of Persian women (whom he saw as the most beautiful in the world) to argue that Persians were once great Aryans, but unfortunately the Persians had interbred too often with the Semitic Arabs for their own good. At the same time, Gobineau argued that in Southeast Asia the blacks and Asians had intermixed to create the sub-race of the Malays. He classified Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa as racially mixed.
Gobineau's primary thesis was that European civilization flowed from Greece to Rome, and then to Germanic and contemporary civilization. He thought this corresponded to the ancient Indo-European culture, which earlier anthropologists had misconceived as "Aryan"—a term that only Indo-Iranians are known to have used in ancient times. This included groups classified by language like the Celts, Slavs and the Germans. Gobineau later came to use and reserve the term Aryan only for the "German race", and described the Aryans as la race germanique. By doing so, he presented a racist theory in which Aryans—that is Germans—were all that was positive.
Gobineau described the Aryans as physically extremely beautiful and very tall; of immense intelligence and strength, and endowed with incredible energy, great creativity in the arts and a love of war. Like many other racists, he believed one's looks determined what one did, or in other words, that beautiful people created beautiful art while ugly people created ugly art.
He attributed much of the economic turmoil in France to pollution of the races. Gobineau ended the Essai with the prediction that the "Asian" Russian Empire would soon be the dominant power in Europe. It would then be superseded by China, once that state was modernized, and the Chinese would then conquer Europe. Gobineau warned Tocqueville against "the great desire to open up China" as the French should "examine more carefully the consequences of such camaraderie".
Despite his pride in being French, Gobineau often attacked many aspects of French life under the Third Republic as reflecting "democratic degeneration"—namely the chaos that he believed resulted when the mindless masses were allowed political power—which meant that critical reception of Gobineau in France was very mixed. His contempt for ordinary people emerges from his letters, where his preferred term for common folk was la boue ("the mud"). Gobineau questioned the belief that the black and yellow races belong to the same human family as the white race and share a common ancestor. Trained neither as a theologian nor a naturalist, and writing before the popular spread of evolutionary theory, Gobineau took the Bible to be a true telling of human history.
Reaction to Gobineau's essay
The Essai attracted mostly negative reviews from French critics, which Gobineau used as a proof of the correctness of his racial theories, writing "the French, who are always ready to set anything afire—materially speaking—and who respect nothing, either in religion or politics, have always been the world's greatest cowards in matters of science". Later in his life, with the spread of British and American civilization and the growth of Germany, he altered his opinion to believing the white race could be saved. The German-born American historian George Mosse argued that Gobineau projected all of his fear and hatred of the French middle and working classes onto the Asians and the blacks.
Summarizing Mosse's argument, Davies argued that: "The self-serving, materialistic oriental of the Essai was really an anti-capitalist's portrait of the money-grubbing French middle class" while "the sensual, unintelligent and violent negro" that Gobineau portrayed in the Essai was an aristocratic caricature of the French poor. In his writings on the French peasantry, Gobineau characteristically insisted in numerous anecdotes, he claimed were based on personal experience, that French farmers were coarse, crude people incapable of learning, indeed of any sort of thinking beyond the most rudimentary level of thought. As the American critic Michelle Wright wrote, "the peasant may inhabit the land, but they are certainly not part of it". Wright further noted the very marked similarity between Gobineau's picture of the French peasantry and his view of blacks.
Time in Persia
In 1855, Gobineau left Paris to become the first secretary at the French legation in Tehran, Persia (modern Iran). He was promoted to chargé d'affaires the following year. The histories of Persia and Greece had played prominent roles in the Essai and Gobineau wanted to see both places for himself. His mission was to keep Persia out of the Russian sphere of influence, but he cynically wrote: "If the Persians ... unite with the western powers, they will march against the Russians in the morning, be defeated by them at noon and become their allies by evening". Gobineau's time was not taxed by his diplomatic duties, and he spent time studying ancient cuneiform texts and learning Persian. He came to speak a "kitchen Persian" that allowed him to talk to Persians somewhat. (He was never fluent in Persian as he claimed to be.) Despite having some love for the Persians, Gobineau was shocked they lacked his racial prejudices and were willing to accept blacks as equals. He criticized Persian society for being too "democratic".
Gobineau saw Persia as a land without a future destined to be conquered by the West sooner or later. For him this was a tragedy for the West. He believed Western men would all too easily be seduced by the beautiful Persian women causing more miscegenation to further "corrupt" the West. However, he was obsessed with ancient Persia, seeing in Achaemenid Persia a great and glorious Aryan civilization, now sadly gone. This was to preoccupy him for the rest of his life. Gobineau loved to visit the ruins of the Achaemenid period as his mind was fundamentally backward looking, preferring to contemplate past glories rather than what he saw as a dismal present and even bleaker future.
His time in Persia inspired two books: Mémoire sur l'état social de la Perse actuelle (1858) ("Memoire on the Social State of Today's Persia") and Trois ans en Asie (1859) ("Three Years in Asia").
Gobineau was less than complimentary about modern Persia. He wrote to Prokesch-Osten that there was no "Persian race" as modern Persians were "a breed mixed from God knows what!". He loved ancient Persia as the great Aryan civilization par excellence, however, noting that Iran means "the land of the Aryans" in Persian. Gobineau was less Euro-centric than one might expect in his writings on Persia, believing the origins of European civilization could be traced to Persia. He criticized western scholars for their "collective vanity" in being unable to admit to the West's "huge" debt to Persia.
Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze
In 1856, two American "race scientists", Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze, both ardent white supremacists, translated Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines into English. Champions of slavery, they found in Gobineau's anti-black writings a convenient justification for the "peculiar institution". Nott and Hotz found much to approve of in the Essai such as: "The Negro is the most humble and lags at the bottom of the scale. The animal character imprinted upon his brow marks his destiny from the moment of his conception". Much to Gobineau's intense annoyance, Nott and Hotze abridged the first volume of the Essai from 1,600 pages in the French original down to 400 in English. At least part of the reason for this was because of Gobineau's hostile picture of Americans. About American white people, Gobineau declared:
They are a very mixed assortment of the most degenerate races in olden-day Europe. They are the human flotsam of all ages: Irish, crossbreed Germans and French and Italians of even more doubtful stock. The intermixture of all these decadent ethnic varieties will inevitably give birth to further ethnic chaos. This chaos is no way unexpected or new: it will produce no further ethnic mixture which has not already been, or cannot be realized on our own continent. Absolutely nothing productive will result from it, and even when ethnic combinations resulting from infinite unions between Germans, Irish, Italians, French and Anglo-Saxons join us in the south with racial elements composed of Indian, Negro, Spanish and Portuguese essence, it is quite unimaginable that anything could result from such horrible confusions, but an incoherent juxtaposition of the most decadent kinds of people.
Highly critical passages like this were removed from The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, as the Essai was titled in English. Nott and Hotzel retained only the parts relating to the alleged inherent inferiority of blacks. Likewise, they used Gobineau as a way of attempting to establish that white America was in mortal peril despite the fact that most American blacks were slaves in 1856. The two "race scientists" argued on the basis of the Essai that blacks were essentially a type of vicious animal, rather than human beings, and would always pose a danger to whites. The passages of the Essai where Gobineau declared that, though of low intelligence, blacks had certain artistic talents and that a few "exceptional" African tribal chiefs probably had a higher IQ than those of the stupidest whites were not included in the American edition. Nott and Hotze wanted nothing that might give blacks admirable human qualities. Beyond that, they claimed that nation and race were the same, and that to be American was to be white. As such, the American translators argued in their introduction that just as various European nations were torn apart by nationality conflicts caused by different "races" living together, likewise ending slavery and granting American citizenship to blacks would cause the same sort of conflicts, but only on a much vaster scale in the United States.
Time in Newfoundland
In 1859, an Anglo-French dispute over the French fishing rights on the French Shore of Newfoundland led to an Anglo-French commission being sent to Newfoundland to find a resolution to the dispute. Gobineau was one of the two French commissioners dispatched to Newfoundland, an experience that he later recorded in his 1861 book Voyage à Terre-Neuve ("Voyage to Newfoundland"). In 1858, the Foreign Minister Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski had tried to send Gobineau to the French legation in Beijing. He objected that as a "civilized European" he had no wish to go to an Asian country like China. As punishment, Walewski sent Gobineau to Newfoundland, telling him he would be fired from the Quai d'Orsay if he refused the Newfoundland assignment.
Gobineau hated Newfoundland, writing to a friend in Paris on 26 July 1859: "This is an awful country. It is very cold, there is almost constant fog, and one sails between pieces of floating ice of enormous size." In his time in St. John's, a city largely inhabited by Irish immigrants, Gobineau deployed virtually every anti-Irish cliché in his reports to Paris. He stated the Irish of St. John's were extremely poor, undisciplined, conniving, obstreperous, dishonest, loud, violent, and usually drunk. He described several of the remote fishing settlements he visited in Utopian terms, praising them as examples of how a few hardy, tough people could make a living under very inhospitable conditions. Gobineau's praise for Newfoundland fishermen reflected his viewpoint that those who cut themselves off from society best preserve their racial purity. Despite his normal contempt for ordinary people, he called the Newfoundland fishermen he met "the best men that I have ever seen in the world". Gobineau observed that in these remote coastal settlements, there were no policemen as there was no crime, going on to write:
I am not sorry to have seen once in my life a sort of Utopia. [...] A savage and hateful climate, a forbidding countryside, the choice between poverty and hard dangerous labour, no amusements, no pleasures, no money, fortune and ambition being equally impossible—and still, for all this, a cheerful outlook, a kind of domestic well-being of the most primitive kind. [...] But this is what succeeds in enabling men to make use of complete liberty and to be tolerant of one another.
Minister to Persia
In 1861, Gobineau returned to Tehran as the French minister and lived a modest, ascetic lifestyle. He became obsessed with ancient Persia. This soon got out of control as he sought to prove ancient Persia was founded by his much admired Aryans, leading him to engage in what Irwin called "deranged" theories about Persia's history. In 1865 Gobineau published Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale ("Religions and Philosophies in Central Asia"), an account of his travels in Persia and encounters with the various esoteric Islamic sects he discovered being practiced in the Persian countryside. His mystical frame of mind led him to feel in Persia what he called "un certain plaisir" ("a certain pleasure") as nowhere else in the world did he feel the same sort of joy he felt when viewing the ruins of Persia.
Gobineau had a low opinion of Islam, a religion invented by the Arab Mohammed. He viewed him as part of the "Semitic race", unlike the Persians whose Indo-European language led him to see them as Aryans. Gobineau believed that Shia Islam was part of a "revolt" by the Aryan Persians against the Semitic Arabs, seeing a close connection between Shia Islam and Persian nationalism. His understanding of Persia was distorted and confused. He mistakenly believed Shi'ism was practiced only in Persia, and that in Shi'ism the Imam Ali is much more venerated than Muhammad. He was unaware that Shia Islam only became the state religion of Persia under the Safavids. Based on his own experiences, Gobineau believed the Persians did not really believe in Islam, with the faith of the Prophet being a cover over a society that still preserved many pre-Islamic features. Gobineau also described the savage persecution of the followers of Bábism and of the new religion of the Bahá'í Faith by the Persian state, which was determined to uphold Shia Islam as the state religion. Gobineau approved of the persecution of the Babi. He wrote they were "veritable communists" and "true and pure supporters of socialism", as every bit as dangerous as the French socialists. He agreed the Peacock Throne was right to stamp out Bábism. Gobineau was one of the first Westerners to examine the esoteric sects of Persia. Though his work was idiosyncratic, he did spark scholarly interest in an aspect of Persia that had been ignored by Westerners until then. His command of Persian was average, his Arabic was worse. Since there were few Western Orientalists who knew Persian, however, Gobineau was able to pass himself off for decades as a leading Orientalist who knew Persia like no one else.
Criticism of Gobineau's Persian work
Only with his studies in ancient Persia did Gobineau come under fire from scholars. He published two books on ancient Persia, Lectures des textes cunéiformes (1858) ("Readings of Cuneiform Texts") and Traité des écritures cunéiformes (1864) ("Treatments of Cuneiform Fragments"). Irwin wrote: "The first treatise is wrong-headed, yet still on this side of sanity; the second later and much longer work shows many signs of the kind of derangement that is likely to infect those who interest themselves too closely in the study of occultism." One of the principal problems with Gobineau's approach to translating the cuneiform texts of ancient Persia was that he failed to understand linguistic change and that Old Persian was not the same language as modern Persian. His books met with hostile reception from scholars who argued that Gobineau simply did not understand the texts he was purporting to translate.
Gobineau's article attempting to rebut his critics in the Journal asiatique was not published, as the editors had to politely tell him his article was "unpublishable" as it was full of "absurd" claims and vitriolic abuse of his critics. During his second time in Persia, Gobineau spent much time working as an amateur archeologist and gathering material for what was to become Traité des écritures cunéiformes, a book that Irwin called "a monument to learned madness". Gobineau was always very proud of it, seeing the book as a magnum opus that rivaled the Essai. Gobineau had often traveled from Tehran to the Ottoman Empire to visit the ruins of Dur-Sharrukin at Khorsabad, near Mosul in what is now northern Iraq. The ruins of Khorsabad are Assyrian, built by King Sargon II in 717 BC, but Gobineau decided the ruins were actually Persian and built by Darius the Great some two hundred years later.
French archeologist Paul-Émile Botta published a scathing review of Traité des écritures cunéiformes in the Journal asiatique. He wrote the cuneiform texts at the Dur-Sharrukin were Akkadian, that Gobineau did not know what he was talking about, and the only reason he had even written the review was to prove that he had wasted his time reading the book. As Gobineau insistently pressed his thesis, the leading French Orientalist, Julius von Mohl of the Société asiatique, was forced to intervene in the dispute to argue that Gobineau's theories, which were to a large extent based on numerology and other mystical theories, lacked "scientific rigor", and the most favorable thing he could say was that he admired the "artistry" of Gobineau's thesis.
Continuing his Persian obsession, Gobineau published Histoire des Perses ("History of the Persians") in 1869. In it he did not attempt to distinguish between Persian history and legends treating the Shahnameh and the Kush Nama (a 12th-century poem presenting a legendary story of two Chinese emperors) as factual, reliable accounts of Persia's ancient history. As such, Gobineau began his history by presenting the Persians as Aryans who arrived in Persia from Central Asia and conquered the race of giants known to them as the Diws. Gobineau also added his own racial theories to the Histoire des Perses, explaining how Cyrus the Great had planned the migration of the Aryans into Europe making him responsible for the "grandeur" of medieval Europe. For Gobineau, Cyrus the Great was the greatest leader in history, writing: "Whatever we ourselves are, as Frenchmen, Englishmen, Germans, Europeans of the nineteenth century, it is to Cyrus that we owe it", going on to call Cyrus as "the greatest of the great men in all human history".
Minister to Greece
In 1864, Gobineau became the French minister to Greece. During his time in Athens, which with Tehran were the only cities he was stationed in that he liked, he spent his time writing poetry and learning about sculpture when not traveling with Ernest Renan in the Greek countryside in search of ruins. Gobineau seduced two sisters in Athens, Zoé and Marika Dragoumis, who became his mistresses; Zoé remained a lifelong correspondent. However great his enthusiasm for ancient Greece, Gobineau was less than complimentary about modern Greece. He wrote that due to miscegenation the Greek people had lost the Aryan blood responsible for "the glory that was Greece". Now the Greeks had a mixture of Arab, Bulgarian, Turkish, Serbian and Albanian blood.
In 1832, although nominally independent, Greece had become a joint Anglo-French-Russian protectorate. As such the British, French and Russian ministers in Athens had the theoretical power to countermand any decision of the Greek cabinet. Gobineau repeatedly advised against France exercising this power, writing Greece was "the sad and living evidence of European ineptness and presumptuousness". He attacked the British attempt to bring Westminster democracy to Greece as bringing about "the complete decay of a barbarous land" while the French were guilty of introducing the Greeks to "the most inept Voltairianism". About the "Eastern Question", Gobineau advised against French support for the irredentist Greek Megali Idea, writing the Greeks could not replace the Ottoman Empire, and if the Ottoman Empire should be replaced with a greater Greece, only Russia would benefit. Gobineau advised Paris:
The Greeks will not control the Orient, neither will the Armenians nor the Slav nor any Christian population, and, at the same time, if others were to come—even the Russians, the most oriental of them all—they could only submit to the harmful influences of this anarchic situation. [...] For me [...] there is no Eastern Question and if I had the honour of being a great government I should concern myself no longer with developments in these areas."
In the spring of 1866, Christian Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Empire on the island of Crete. Three emissaries arrived in Athens to ask Gobineau for French support for the uprising, saying it was well known that France was the champion of justice and the rights of "small nations". As France was heavily engaged in the war in Mexico Gobineau, speaking for Napoleon III, informed the Cretans to expect no support from France—they were on their own in taking on the Ottoman Empire. He had no sympathy with the Greek desire to liberate their compatriots living under Ottoman rule; writing to his friend Anton von Prokesch-Osten he noted: "It is one rabble against another".
Recall to France as a result of Cretan uprising
Gobineau called the Cretan uprising "the most perfect monument to lies, mischief and impudence that has been seen in thirty years". During the uprising, a young French academic Gustave Flourens, noted for his fiery enthusiasm for liberal causes, had joined the Cretean uprising and had gone to Athens to try to persuade the Greek government to support it. Gobineau had unwisely shown Flourens diplomatic dispatches from Paris showing both the French and Greek governments were unwilling to offend the Ottomans by supporting the Cretan uprising, which Flourens then leaked to the press. Gobineau received orders from Napoleon III to silence Flourens. On 28 May 1868, while Flourens was heading for a meeting with King George I, he was intercepted by Gobineau who had him arrested by the legation guards, put into chains and loaded onto the first French ship heading for Marseille. L'affaire Flourens became a cause célèbre in France with novelist Victor Hugo condemning Gobineau in an opinion piece in Le Tribute on 19 July 1868 for the treacherous way he had treated a fellow Frenchman fighting for Greek freedom. With French public opinion widely condemning the minister in Athens, Gobineau was recalled to Paris in disgrace.
Minister to Brazil
In 1869, Gobineau was appointed the French minister to Brazil. At the time, France and Brazil did not have diplomatic relations at an ambassadorial level, only legations headed by ministers. Gobineau was unhappy the Quai d'Orsay had sent him to Brazil, which he viewed as an insufficiently grand posting. Gobineau landed in Rio de Janeiro during the riotously sensual Carnival, which disgusted him. From that moment on he detested Brazil, which he saw as a culturally backward and unsanitary place of diseases. He feared falling victim to the yellow fever that decimated the population of Brazil on a regular basis. The only thing that pleased him as he landed in Rio was seeing black slaves whose backs bore the scars of whippings unload his luggage. Gobineau's major duties during his time in Brazil from March 1869 to April 1870 were to help mediate the end of the Paraguayan War and seek compensation after Brazilian troops looted the French legation in Asunción. He did so and was equally successful in negotiating an extradition treaty between the French Empire and the Empire of Brazil. He dropped hints to Emperor Pedro II that French public opinion favored the emancipation of Brazil's slaves. As slavery was the basis of Brazil's economy, and Brazil had the largest slave population in the Americas, Pedro II was unwilling to abolish slavery at this time.
As most Brazilians have a mixture of Portuguese, African and Indian ancestry, Gobineau saw the Brazilian people, whom he loathed, as confirming his theories about the perils of miscegenation. He wrote to Paris that Brazilians were "a population totally mulatto, vitiated in its blood and spirit, fearfully ugly ... Not a single Brazilian has pure blood because of the pattern of marriages among whites, Indians and Negroes is so widespread that the nuances of color are infinite, causing a degeneration among the lower as well the upper classes". He noted Brazilians are "neither hard-working, active nor fertile". Based on all this, Gobineau reached the conclusion that all human life would cease in Brazil within the next 200 years on the grounds of "genetic degeneracy".
Gobineau was unpopular in Brazil. His letters to Paris show his complete contempt for everybody in Brazil, regardless of their nationality (except for the Emperor Pedro II), with his most damning words reserved for Brazilians. He wrote about Brazil: "Everyone is ugly here, unbelievably ugly, like apes". His only friend during his time in Rio was Emperor Pedro II, whom Gobineau praised as a wise and great leader, noting his blue eyes and blond hair as proof that Pedro was an Aryan. The fact Pedro was of the House of Braganza left Gobineau assured he had no African or Indian blood. Gobineau wrote: "Except for the Emperor there is no one in this desert full of thieves" who was worthy of his friendship.
Gobineau's attitudes of contempt for the Brazilian people led him to spend much of his time feuding with the Brazilian elite. In 1870 he was involved in a bloody street brawl with the son-in-law of a Brazilian senator who did not appreciate having his nation being put down. As a result of the brawl, Pedro II asked Paris to have his friend recalled, or he would declare him persona non-grata. Rather than suffer the humiliation of this happening to the French minister the Quai d'Orsay promptly recalled Gobineau.
Return to France
In May 1870 Gobineau returned to France from Brazil. In a letter to Tocqueville in 1859 he wrote, "When we come to the French people, I genuinely favor absolute power", and as long as Napoleon III ruled as an autocrat, he had Gobineau's support. Gobineau had often predicted France was so rotten the French were bound to be defeated if they ever fought a major war. At the outbreak of the war with Prussia in July 1870, however, he believed they would win within a few weeks. After the German victory, Gobineau triumphantly used his own country's defeat as proof of his racial theories. He spent the war as the maire (mayor) of the little town of Trie in Oise department. After the Prussians occupied Trie, Gobineau established good relations with them and was able to reduce the indemnity imposed on Oise department.
Later, Gobineau wrote a book Ce qui est arrivé à la France en 1870 ("What Happened to France in 1870") explaining the French defeat was due to racial degeneration, which no publisher chose to publish. He argued the French bourgeoisie were "descended from Gallo-Roman slaves", which explained why they were no match for an army commanded by Junkers. Gobineau attacked Napoleon III for his plans to rebuild Paris writing: "This city, pompously described as the capital of the universe, is in reality only the vast caravanserai for the idleness, greed and carousing of all Europe."
In 1871, poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt who met Gobineau described him thus:
Gobineau is a man of about 55, with grey hair and moustache, dark rather prominent eyes, sallow complexion, and tall figure with brisk almost jerky gait. In temperament he is nervous, energetic in manner, observant, but distrait, passing rapidly from thought to thought, a good talker but a bad listener. He is a savant, novelist, poet, sculptor, archaeologist, a man of taste, a man of the world."
Despite his embittered view of the world and misanthropic attitudes towards humanity, Gobineau was capable of displaying much charm when he wanted to. He was described by historian Albert Sorel as "a man of grace and charm" who would have made a perfect diplomat in Ancien Régime France.
Minister to Sweden
In May 1872, Gobineau was appointed the French minister to Sweden. After arriving in Stockholm, he wrote to his sister Caroline: "This is the pure race of the North—that of the masters", calling the Swedes "the purest branch of the Germanic race". In contrast to France, Gobineau was impressed with the lack of social conflict in Sweden, writing to Dragoumis: "There is no class hatred. The nobility lives on friendly terms with the middle class and with the people at large". Gobineau argued that because of Sweden's remote location in Scandinavia, Aryan blood had been better preserved as compared to France. Writing about the accession of Oscar II to the Swedish throne in 1872 he said: "This country is unique ... I have just seen one king die and another ascend the throne without anyone doubling the guard or alerting a soldier". The essential conservatism of Swedish society also impressed Gobineau as he wrote to Pedro II: "The conservative feeling is amongst the most powerful in the national spirit and these people relinquish the past only step by step and with extreme caution".
Sweden presented a problem for Gobineau between reconciling his belief in an Aryan master race with his insistence that only the upper classes were Aryans. He eventually resolved this by denouncing the Swedes as debased Aryans after all. He used the fact King Oscar allowed Swedish democracy to exist and did not try to rule as an absolute monarch as evidence the House of Bernadotte were all weak and cowardly kings. By 1875, Gobineau was writing, "Sweden horrifies me" and wrote with disgust about "Swedish vulgarity and contemptibility".
In 1874, Gobineau met the homosexual German diplomat Prince Philip von Eulenburg in Stockholm and became very close to him. Eulenburg was later to recall fondly how he and Gobineau had spent hours during their time in Sweden under the "Nordic sky, where the old world of the gods lived on in the customs and habits of the people as well in their hearts." Gobineau later wrote that only two people in the entire world had ever properly understood his racist philosophy, namely Richard Wagner and Eulenburg.
Gobineau encouraged Eulenburg to promote his theory of an Aryan master-race, telling him: "In this way you will help many people understand things sooner." Later, Eulenburg was to complain all of his letters to Gobineau had to be destroyed because "They contain too much of an intimately personal nature". During his time in Sweden, Gobineau became obsessed with the Vikings and became intent on proving he was descended from the Norse. His time in Stockholm was a very productive period from a literary viewpoint. He wrote Les Pléiades ("The Pleiades"), Les Nouvelles Asiatiques ("The New Asians"), La Renaissance, most of Histoire de Ottar Jarl, pirate norvégien conquérant du pays de Bray en Normandie et de sa descendance ("History of Ottar Jarl, Norwegian Pirate and Conqueror of Normandy and his Descendants") and completed the first half of his epic poem Amadis while serving as minister to Sweden.
In 1879, Gobineau attempted to prove his own racial superiority over the rest of the French with his pseudo-family history Histoire de Ottar Jarl. It begins with the line "I descend from Odin", and traces his supposed descent from the Viking Ottar Jarl. As the de Gobineau family first appeared in history in late 15th century Bordeaux, and Ottar Jarl—who may or may not have been a real person—is said to have lived in the 10th century, Gobineau had to resort to a great deal of invention to make his genealogy work. For him, the Essai, the Histoire des Perses and Histoire de Ottar Jarl comprised a trilogy, what the French critic Jean Caulmier called "a poetic vision of the human adventure", covering the universal history of all races in the Essai, to the history of the Aryan branch in Persia in Histoire des Perses to his own family's history in Histoire de Ottar Jarl.
During his time in Sweden, although remaining outwardly faithful to the Catholic Church, Gobineau privately abandoned his belief in Christianity. He was very interested in the pagan religion of the Vikings, which seemed more authentically Aryan to him. For him, maintaining his Catholicism was a symbol of his reactionary politics and rejection of liberalism, and it was for these reasons he continued to nominally observe Catholicism. Gobineau told his friend the Comte de Basterot that he wanted a Catholic burial only because the de Gobineaus had always been buried in Catholic ceremonies, not because of any belief in Catholicism.
For leaving his post in Stockholm without permission to join the Emperor Pedro II on his European visit, Gobineau was told in January 1877 to either resign from the Quai d'Orsay or be fired; he chose the former.
Gobineau spent his last years living in Rome, a lonely and embittered man whose principal friends were the Wagners and Eulenburg. He saw himself as a great sculptor and attempted to support himself by selling his sculpture.
Other views and writings
Novels and essays
Besides promoting racism, Gobineau also wrote several well received novels. Writers such as Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau and André Gide have praised him as one of France's greatest novelists. In his native France, he has been and is still often praised by literary critics as a master of French style whose novels were written with elegant verve and a superb sense of irony. French critic Pierre-Louis Rey and British historian Michael D. Biddiss have both decried the tendency of French critics to sever Gobineau the racist from Gobineau the novelist, maintaining his novels reflect his racial theories just as much as the Essai. Gobineau's 1874 novel Les Pléiades is concerned with a few exceptionally talented people who are examples of "ethnic persistence" in Europe surrounded by vast masses of morons. In his introduction to Les Pléiades, Gobineau says the purpose of the novel is to advance the theory "that there are no longer classes, that there are no longer peoples, but only—in the whole of Europe—certain individuals who float like the wreckage upon the flood".
Another one of his literary works is Nouvelles Asiatiques (1876), which concerns the impact of miscegenation in modern Asia as reflected in the life stories of a diverse group of people. Nouvelles Asiatiques is unique as his only novel to feature non-white protagonists. In common with his other novels, its message is fundamentally pessimistic, but it allows Gobineau's intense affection for Persia to shine through.
Despite its title, Nouvelles Asiatiques is a series of "Oriental" short stories set in Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Its recurring theme is that the character of the people is determined by race. An example is an Uzbek noblewoman, adopted by a Russian officer, retaining the ferocity of her race by attempting to blind his biological daughter while an Afghan prince rises far above the rest because of his Aryan blood.
In his 1877 novel La Renaissance, Gobineau again highlights the theme of a few gifted "Aryan" heroes such as Cesare Borgia and Pope Julius II having the misfortune to be surrounded by an endless multitude of debased inferiors. In La Renaissance, he attacks the entire idea of morality as the basis of action, arguing that a superior few should not be governed by any set of universal moral values. As such, Pope Alexander VI is presented as a hero in La Renaissance, precisely because of the utterly ruthless way in which he advanced the interests of the Borgia family in defiance of morality.
Friendship with Richard Wagner
Though a proud Frenchman, Gobineau was cosmopolitan and regarded himself as part of a cultured European elite that transcended national loyalties—a good Frenchman but even more so a "good European". Gobineau felt more affinity for fellow aristocrats of other nationalities than he did for French commoners. The Czech historian Ivo Budil called him "... a cosmopolitan thinker who did not feel wholly French", and who was obsessed with ancient Greece and Persia.
In 1876, Gobineau accompanied his close friend Pedro II on his trip to Russia, Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Gobineau introduced him to both Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire. He took his friend on a guided tour of Athens, a city he called "heaven on earth" due to its ruins. Inspired by his last visit to Greece, Gobineau began to write what became his 1878 book Le Royaume des Hellènes ("The Kingdom of the Hellenes"). In it he argues the achievements of ancient Greece were all due to the Aryans, and there existed no connection between the ancient Greeks and modern Greeks, as the Aryan blood was all gone. After leaving Pedro II in Constantinople, Gobineau traveled to Rome, Italy, for a private audience with Pope Pius IX.
During his visit to Rome, Gobineau met and befriended the German composer Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima. Wagner was greatly impressed with the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines and he used his newspaper, the Bayreuther Blätter to popularize Gobineau's racial theories in Germany. Gobineau, in turn, was greatly impressed with Wagner's music and unusually for a Frenchman, he became a member of the Bayreuth Circle. Wagner was fascinated by Gobineau's racial theories, and much of his writing from then on showed Gobineau's influence. Field wrote that "Gobineau's chief work, Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines contained a far more detailed and closely argued explanation for cultural decadence than anything Wagner had written. Indeed, this synthesis of anthropology, theology, linguistics and history was unquestionably the most impressive and ideologically coherent racial analysis produced in the pre-Darwinian era."
Many of Gobineau's ideas were incorporated into Wagner's later operas. Cosima Wagner wrote to Gobineau in May 1881 to tell him: "My husband is quite at your service, always reading The Races when he is not at work with the staging." Gobineau wrote back to say: "I assure you there is no Bayreuthian more faithful than I". Wagner, while accepting Gobineau's basic ideas into his philosophy, rejected Gobineau's pessimism about the fate of the Aryans. Instead, he created the concept of regeneration, where the Aryans would return to their former glory by embracing his theories of art and rejecting what he called the corrupting influence of the Jews.
Gobineau and war
Despite having failed the entrance exams to St. Cyr, Gobineau had an intensely militaristic view of the world, believing different races were born to hate each other and humans have an innate desire to kill one another. He wrote war was a natural part of the human condition and for a nation: "It will either conquer or be conquered". Gobineau dismissed pacifism, writing: "Even if the friends of universal peace succeeded in making Europe disgusted with war, they would still have to bring about a permanent change in the passions of mankind" and that peace was only possible "if all races were actually gifted, in the same degree, with the same powers". Despite being a diplomat whose nominal job was to achieve French policy goals without resorting to war, and despite his personal distaste for the House of Bonaparte, Gobineau very much welcomed the militarism of Napoleon III as bringing greatness back to France. In 1854, Gobineau approved of the Crimean War, writing that France would gain much prestige by declaring war on Russia, a nation that he had always hated. In a letter to his sister Caroline in October 1854, Gobineau wrote: "After twenty years of a peace that has promoted only corruption and revolution, we find ourselves in a military atmosphere which, from its very beginning, has encouraged many fine things. [...] I consider war, despite its evils, as a blessing."
Paradoxically, although Gobineau saw hope in the expansion of European power, he did not support the creation of commercial empires with their attendant multicultural milieu. He concluded the development of empires was ultimately destructive to the "superior races" that created them, since they led to the mixing of distinct races. Instead, he saw the later period of the 19th century imperialism as a degenerative process in European civilization. He continually referred to past empires in Europe and their attendant movement of non-white peoples into European homelands, in explaining the ethnography of the nations of Europe.
According to his theories, the mixed populations of Spain, most of France and Italy, most of Southern Germany, most of Switzerland and Austria, and parts of Britain derived from the historical development of the Roman, Greek, and Ottoman empires, which had brought the non-Aryan peoples of Africa and the Mediterranean cultures to western and northern Europe. He believed the populations of southern and western Iran, southern Spain and Italy consisted of a degenerative race arising from miscegenation, and the whole of north India consisted of a "yellow" (Asian) race. Gobineau was extremely hostile towards Slavic peoples, especially Russians who, he claimed, had become a semi-Asian people as a result of miscegenation under the Golden Horde. He described the Slavs as "a stagnant marsh in which all superior ethnic strains after a few hours of triumph found themselves engulfed".
Gobineau argued Chinese civilization had been created by a group of Aryan conquerors from India who had brought the indigenous Malay people living there under their heel. Though he had read almost everything written in French about China, he believed the origins of Chinese civilization were in southern China. He posited the Aryans from India had first arrived there rather than the Yellow River valley which all Chinese sources regard as the "cradle" of Chinese civilization.
He argued Chinese culture was "without beauty and dignity"; the Chinese were "lacking in sentiments beyond the humblest notion of physical utility", and Chinese Confucianism was a "resume of practices and maxims strongly reminiscent of what the moralists of Geneva and their educational books are pleased to recommend as the nec plus ultra ("ultimate") of the good: economy, moderation, prudence, the art of making a profit and never a loss".
All Chinese literature was "puerile", according to Gobineau, as the Chinese lacked the powers of the imagination that allowed Westerners to write great novels. He considered Chinese theater "flat" and Chinese poetry "ridiculous". The "great Chinese scientific works" were "verbose compilations" lacking in the analytic rigor, which according to him whites alone were capable of achieving. He asserted the Chinese were incapable of science because "the spirit of the yellow race is neither profound nor insightful to attain this quality [scientific excellence] reserved for the white race". Gobineau believed China was a warning to the West of the perils of "democracy"—by which he meant meritocracy. This was because the Chinese state had attempted to promote education for the masses, the rule by the mandarins was meritocratic, and the exams to become a mandarin were open to all literate men. For Gobineau this reflected the racially "stagnant" character of the Chinese.
In the last years of his life Gobineau was consumed with the fear of what was later to be known as the "Yellow Peril". He believed European civilization would soon be destroyed by a Chinese invasion. Linked to his fear of China was Gobineau's fear of Russia. During his visit to Russia in 1876 he wrote to a friend: "It is undeniable that this country is well on the way to power and aggrandizement" and in 1879 wrote Russia was about to present "the spectacle of the creation of the greatest empire that the Universe will ever have seen". He saw the growth of Russian power as opening the door for a Chinese invasion of Europe, writing to Pedro II in 1879:
What the Russians will have done within ten years will be to have opened towards the West the flood-gates to the vast human horde that we find so ill at east in China; and it is an avalanche of Chinese and Slavs, mottled with Tartars and Baltic Germans, that will put an end to the stupidities and indeed to the civilization of Europe. The United States, which fears a yellow invasion from the direction of California, will gain little from all this. Europe will lose everything!
In 1881, Gobineau published an article in Richard Wagner's newspaper the Bayreuther Blätter entitled "Ein Urteil über die jetzige Weltage" ("A Judgment on the Present World"), which was translated into German by Cosima Wagner. In an introduction written by her husband, he warned the Chinese would soon "overwhelm" and destroy Western civilization. Gobineau called his essay Ce qui se fait en Asie ("What is Happening in Asia") "the sequel and the present condition of the Essai". Gobineau praised racist laws meant to restrict Chinese immigration to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Hawaii and Australia as a good first step, but warned that "European civilization" was so rotten by miscegenation that it was only a matter of time before the Chinese destroyed the West.
In 1884, the French efforts to conquer Vietnam led to war breaking out between France and China. The Sino-French War led to immediate revival of interest in Gobineau's anti-Asian writings in France. Several French newspapers reprinted the French original of Gobineau's 1881 article in the Bayreuther Blätter, together with a translation of Wagner's introduction warning about the imminent Chinese threat to European civilization. Likewise, the Franco-Chinese war led to the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines becoming popular in France. The book had been published in four volumes (each about 1,000 pages long) in 1853–55, and remained out of print for decades. In 1884, just after the war with China began, the second and third editions of the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines were published in Paris. This was a direct result of the war, as many French people suddenly became interested in a book that portrayed such an unflattering picture of Asians.
Legacy and influence
Gobineau's ideas were influential in a number of countries both during his lifetime and after his death.
Gobineau's theories were a major influence on the Romanian radical anti-Semitic politician Professor A. C. Cuza, who embraced his biological racism as a way of "proving" the Jews were a "plague" upon modern Romanian life. Like most of Gobineau's followers, Cuza rejected his pessimism as too extreme, but he argued that Romanian people formed out of a fusion between the ancient Dacians and Romans had best preserved the Aryan blood, and that the Jews as a biologically different people simply did not belong in Romania. Cuza, who was deeply impressed with Gobineau, often used his theories and rhetoric of racial degeneration to frame his anti-Semitic arguments about the "Jewish race". Cuza frequently claimed the Jews were a "plague" upon Romania. He asserted the Romanian people were in the midst of the sort of racial degeneration described by Gobineau, which for Cuza was caused by the Jews. At various times Cuza had been a mentor to various figures on the Romanian radical right such as Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the poet-politician Octavian Goga and Marshal Ion Antonescu; his influence was considerable in 1930s–40s Romania.
Gobineau's theories had a profound influence on the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). The Turks had originated from the land north of the Great Wall of China and migrated across Eurasia to Anatolia. Committee members called the homeland of the Turks Turan and identified themselves with Gobineau's Aryans. He was often mentioned in CUP journals and in 1911 a journal dedicated to promoting the CUP's take on Gobineau was founded in Salonika.
Richard Wagner wrote positively about Gobineau in his late writings and suggested one could not exclude the correctness of his racial theory. At the same time, he also totally disagreed with Gobineau's conclusion that miscegenation unavoidably resulted in the decline of the human race and cultures. In his 1881 article Heldentum und Christentum ("Heroism and Christianity"), Wagner praised the Essai, and accepted its premise of an Aryan master race and its denunciation of miscegenation, but he denied the Aryan race was in unstoppable decay. He thought that Christ died for everyone, irrespective of race, and from this he drew his hope for a fundamental regeneration of the "Aryan race". Gobineau visited Bayreuth, the home of Wagner, shortly before his death.
In 1894, the Wagnerite and anti-Semitic journalist Ludwig Schemann founded the Gobineau Vereinigung (Gobineau Society) to promote Gobineau's theories in Germany, spawning the Gobinism movement. Schemann was close to Cosima Wagner and was inspired by her to found the Gobineau Vereinigung. It was a small group, but it exercised much intellectual influence, and in this way popularized the theory of an Aryan master-race in Germany. The Gobineauismus that Schemann and the Gobineau Vereinigung promoted owed as much to Wagner as it did to Gobineau for the group rejected Gobineau's pessimism and claimed the Aryan race could be saved. Schemann, who was one of the most influential and best known race theorists in Imperial Germany, projected an optimistic message about the future of the Aryan race while accepting Gobineau's basic idea about an Aryan master race. Schemann was the man who popularized Gobineau in Germany and it was largely through him, rather than reading the Essai directly, that Gobineauismus was promoted in the Reich. In 1937, Schemann was personally awarded the Goethe Medal by Hitler for his "services to the nation and race".
Influence on Nazism
Adolf Hitler and Nazism borrowed much of Gobineau's ideology. However, although a central figure in the development of degeneration theory, Gobineau was not antisemitic. He may be characterised as philosemitic, having written very positively about Jewish people, including a long eulogy to them in his Essai sur l'inégalité des races, describing them as "a free, strong, and intelligent people" who succeeded despite the natural disadvantages of the Land of Israel. In his later years, however, he inclined, according to Paul Lawrence Rose, toward "a vague personal antisemitism."
When the Nazis adopted Gobineau's theories, they edited his work extensively to make it conform to their views, much as they did in the case of Nietzsche. Extracts from the Essai were mandatory reading in German schools under the Third Reich. Gobineau's fundamental pessimism with the best days of the Aryans long gone was of little use to völkisch ("ethnic") thinkers. Several of them such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain did borrow Gobineau's idea about an Aryan master race. The American historian Paul Fortier observed it was striking the contrast between the fundamental optimism and triumphant tone expressed by Chamberlain in his 1899 book The Foundations of the 19th Century about the future of the Aryans vs. the relentlessly downbeat and gloomy message of Gobineau's Essai. Writing in April 1939, Rowbotham declared: "So after nearly a hundred years, the fantastic pessimistic philosophy of the brilliant French diplomat is seized upon and twisted to the use of a mystic demagogue who finds in the idea of the pure Aryan an excuse for thrusting civilization dangerously near back to the Dark Ages." The pessimism of Gobineau's message did not lend itself to political action as he did not believe that humanity could be saved from racial degeneration. Biddiss wrote:
His racist ideology, through rooted in social and political concerns and though claiming to explain the nature of society itself, could not on his own terms effect any transformation. But Gobineau unfortunately failed to realize the degree to which such a theory—whatever his own view of its impotence—might be capable of use and adaptation by others to affect society and history. His work would in time be plundered by racists with an interest in preaching explicitly reformatory doctrines.
Despite his highly negative assessment of Brazilians, Gobineau became a hero to certain Brazilian intellectuals. In a 1906 essay, the intellectual Sílvio Romero cited Gobineau together with Otto Ammon, Georges Vacher de Lapouge and Houston Stewart Chamberlain as having proved that the blond dolichocephalic (long skulled) people of northern Europe were the best and greatest race in the entire world. He wrote that Brazil could become a great nation by having a huge influx of German immigrants who would achieve the embranquecimento (racial whitening) of Brazil. In 1912, Romero praised Gobineau in an essay for "admirable, genius-like vision" and his "wise words that merit every consideration" before launching what the American historian Thomas Skidmore called a "violent polemic" against Brazil's mulatto population as a racially degenerate people who should disappear from Brazil.
Oliveira Viana in his 1920 book As populações meridionais do Brasil ("The Southern Populations of Brazil") offered lavish praise of Gobineau for his denunciation of miscegenation and his disparaging remarks about black and Indian Brazilians. Vianna's solution was a plan to "Aryanise" Brazil by bringing in millions of fair-skinned European immigrants and thus achieve the "embranquecimento" of Brazil. Vianna served as the education minister under the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, where he was well known for his advocacy of the advantages of "Aryan" immigration to Brazil.
Until the Second World War, Gobineau's writings were cited in Brazil in support of the claim that miscegenation caused "physical degeneration" and there must be no interracial sex in Brazil if the Brazilian people were to have a positive future. By contrast, in reaction to intellectuals like Vianna who cited Gobineau, the Brazilian writer Gilberto Freyre wrote a series of books in the 1920s–30s praising miscegenation and the black Brazilian culture, arguing that the fusion of white, black and Indians had given Brazil a distinctive culture and the Brazilian people a distinctive appearance, creating the theory of Lusotropicalism. Freyre argued that Gobineau was a snobbish Frenchman who looked down upon Brazilians as not measuring up to Europe. This led Freyre to reject the idea that Europe should be the standard for Brazil, arguing the Brazilians had created a new civilization based on an interaction of the descendants of Indians, African slaves and European immigrants that was superior to the Europeans with their obsession with racial purity. Freyre dismissed the writings of Gobineau and Chamberlain as "diffuse, loquacious and wrong".
Although in no way espousing his beliefs, the Bahá'í faith recognizes Gobineau as the person who obtained the only complete manuscript of the early history of the Bábí religious movement of Persia, written by Hajji Mirzâ Jân of Kashan, who was put to death by the Persian authorities in c.1852. The manuscript is held by the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. He is also known to students of Babism for having written the first and most influential account of the movement, displaying a fairly accurate knowledge of its history in Religions et philosophies dans l'Asie centrale. An addendum to that work is a bad translation of the Bab's Bayan al-'Arabi, the first Babi text to be translated into a European language.
Works in English translation
- The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1856 (rep. by Garland Pub., 1984).
- Method of Reading Cuneiform Texts, Educational Society's Press, 1865.
- Gobineau: Selected Political Writing, Michael D. Biddiss (ed.), Jonathan Cape, 1970.
- The World of the Persians, J. Gifford, 1971.
- The French Encounter with Africans, William B. Cohen, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.
- A Gentleman in the Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland, Carleton University Press, 1993.
- Comte de Gobineau and Orientalism: Selected Eastern Writings, Geoffrey Nash (ed.), Routledge, 2008.
- Typhaines Abbey: A Tale of the Twelfth Century, Claxton, Remsen and Haffelfinger, 1869.
- Romances of the East, D. Appleton and Company, 1878 [Rep. by Arno Press, 1973].
- "The History of Gamber-Ali." In The Universal Anthology, Vol. XX, Merrill & Baker, 1899.
- Five Oriental Tales, The Viking Press, 1925.
- The Dancing Girl of Shamakha and other Asiatic Tales, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1926.
- Tales of Asia, Geoffrey Bles, 1947.
- Mademoiselle Irnois and Other Stories, University of California Press, 1988.
- The Renaissance: Savonarola. Cesare Borgia. Julius II. Leo X. Michael Angelo, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913 [Rep. by George Allen & Unwin, 1927].
- The Golden Flower, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1924 [Rep. by Books for Libraries Press, 1968].
- The Lucky Prisoner, Doubleday, Page and Company, 1926 [Rep. by Bretano's, 1930].
- The Crimson Handkerchief: and other Stories, Harper & Brothers, 1927 [Rep. by Jonathan Cape: London, 1929].
- The Pleiads, A. A. Knopf, 1928.
- Sons of Kings, Oxford University Press, 1966.
- The Pleiads, Howard Fertig Pub., 1978
- Gould, Stephen Jay (1996). The Mismeasure of Man. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 359. ISBN 978-0393314250.
Gobineau was undoubtedly the most influential academic racist of the nineteenth century. His writings strongly affected such intellectuals as Wanger and Nietzsche and inspired a social movement known as Gobinism.
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- A. J. Woodman, 2009, The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus, p. 294. (The Germanic race was also regarded by Gobineau as beautiful, honourable and destined to rule: 'cette illustre famille humaine, la plus noble'. While arya was originally an endonym used only by Indo-Iranians, "Aryan" became, partly because of the Essai, a racial designation of a race, which Gobineau specified as 'la race germanique').
- So that the reader not be left in ignorance as to who the Aryans are, Gobineau stated, La race germanique était pourvue de toute l'énergie de la variété ariane ("The Germanic race was provided with all the energy of the Aryan race"). We see, then, that he presents a racist theory in which the Aryans, or Germans, are all that is good. Comparative literature. by American Comparative Literature Association. Modern Language Association of America. Comparative Literature Section.; University of Oregon. 1967, page 342
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- Rose, Paul Lawrence. (2013). "Renan versus Gobineau: Semitism and Antisemitism, Ancient Races and Modern Liberal Nations". History of European Ideas. 39 (4): 528–540. doi:10.1080/01916599.2012.724549.
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- Akçam, Taner (2006). A Shameful Act – The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. New York, NY: Metropolitan. ISBN 978-0805079326.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Biddiss, Michael D. (1970). Father of Racist Ideology: The Social and Political Thought of Count Gobineau. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd. ISBN 978-0297000853.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Biddiss, Michael D. (1997). "History as Destiny: Gobineau, H. S. Chamberlain and Spengler". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 7: 73–100. doi:10.2307/3679271. JSTOR 3679271.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Blue, Gregory (1999). "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril" and the Critique of Modernity"". Journal of World History. 10 (1): 93–139. doi:10.1353/jwh.2005.0003. JSTOR 20078751.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Bucur, Maria (2010). Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0822961260.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Budil, Ivo (2008). Arthur Gobineau and Greece. A view of a man of letters and diplomat. Prague Papers on the History of International Relations.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Burke, Peter; Pallares-Burke, Maria Lúcia (2008). Gilberto Freyre: Social Theory in the Tropics. New York, NY: Peter Lang Ltd. ISBN 978-1906165093.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Davies, Alan (1988). Infected Christianity: A Study of Modern Racism. McGill-Queen's University Press. JSTOR j.ctt80fx5.
- Domeier, Norman (2015). The Eulenburg Affair: A Cultural History of Politics in the German Empire. Martlesham, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 978-1571139122.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Drayton, Richard (2011). "Gilberto Freyre and the Twentieth-Century Rethinking of Race in Latin America". 27. Portuguese Studies. Cite journal requires
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- Drummond, Elizabeth (2005). "Schemann, Ludwig (1852–1938)". In Levy, Richard S. (ed.). Antisemitism A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-439-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Field, Geoffrey G. (1981). Evangelist of race : The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04860-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Fortier, Paul (1967). "Gobineau and German Racism". 19. Comparative Literature. Cite journal requires
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- Gobineau, Arthur de (1993). Michael Wilkshire (ed.). A Gentleman in the Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland. Ottawa: Carleton University Press. JSTOR j.ctt1cd0m3n.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Gobineau, Arthur de (1970). "Events in Asia". In Michael Biddiss, London (ed.). Gobineau Selected Political Writings.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Irwin, Robert (2016). Gobineau the Would be Orientalist. 26. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Klemperer, Victor (2000) . The Language of the Third Reich. Translated by Martin Brady. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-9130-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Röhl, John C.G. (1994). The Kaiser and his Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1316529829.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Rowbotham, Arnold (1939). "Gobineau and the Aryan Terror". The Sewanee Review. 47 (2): 152–165. JSTOR 27535529.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Skidmore, Thomas E. (1993). Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822313205.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Wilkshire, Michael (1993). "Introduction: Gobineau and Newfoundland". In Michael Wilkshire (ed.). Gentleman in the Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland. Carleton Library Series. McGill-Queen's University Press. JSTOR j.ctt1cd0m3n.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Wright, Michelle (1999). Nigger Peasants from France: Missing Translations of American Anxieties on Race and the Nation. 22. Callaloo.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Works in English
- Beasley, Edward (2010). The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences, Taylor & Francis.
- Biddiss, Michael D. (1970). "Prophecy and Pragmatism: Gobineau's Confrontation with Tocqueville," The Historical Journal, Vol. 13, No. 4.
- Biddiss, Michael D. (1997). "History as Destiny: Gobineau, H. S. Chamberlain and Spengler," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Vol. VII.
- Blue, Gregory (1999). "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the 'Yellow Peril,' and the Critique of Modernity," Journal of World History, Vol. 10, No. 1.
- Dreher, Robert Edward (1970). Arthur de Gobineau, an Intellectual Portrait, University of Wisconsin.
- Gillouin, Rene (1921). "Mystical Race Theories," The Living Age, No. 4015.
- Grimes, Alan P. & Horwitz, Robert H. (1959). "Elitism: Racial Elitism." In Modern Political Ideologies, Vol. V, Oxford University Press.
- Haskins, Frank H. (1924). "Race as a Factor in Political Theory." In A History of Political Theories, Chap. XIII, The Macmillan Company.
- House, Roy Temple (1923). "Gobineau, Nietzsche, and Spiess," The Nation, 11 April.
- Kale, Steven (2010). "Gobineau, Racism, and Legitimism: A Royalist Heretic in Nineteenth-Century France," Modern Intellectual History, Volume 7, Issue 01.
- Rahilly, A. J. (1916). "Race and Super-Race," The Dublin Review, Vol. CLIX.
- Richards, Robert J. (8 November 2013). Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05893-1. Retrieved 13 August 2015. Lay summary (28 October 2013).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Rowbotham, Arnold H. (1929). The Literary Works of Count de Gobineau, H. Champion.
- Schemann, Ludwig (1979). Gobineau, Arno Press.
- Seillière, Ernest (1914). "The Life and Work of Count Arthur de Gobineau." In The German Doctrine of Conquest, Maunsel & Co.
- Sorokin, Pitirim A. (1928). "Anthropo-Racial, Selectionist, and Hereditarist School." In Contemporary Sociological Theories, Harper & Bros., pp. 219–308.
- Snyder, Louis L. (1939). "Count Arthur de Gobineau and the Crystallization of Nordicism." In Race: A History of Modern Ethnic Theories, Longmans, Green & Co.
- Spring, Gerald Max (1932). The Vitalism of Count de Gobineau, New York, [s.n.].
- Valette, Rebecca M. (1969). Arthur de Gobineau and the Short Story, University of North Carolina Press.
- Voegelin, Eric (1940). "The Growth of the Race Idea," The Review of Politics, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 283–317.
- Voegelin, Eric (1997). Race and State, University of Missouri Press.
- Works in other languages
- Boissel, Jean (1993). Gobineau: Biographie. Mythes et Réalité, Berg International.
- Buenzod, Janine (1967). La Formation de le Pensée de Gobineau et l'Essai sur l'Inégalité des Races Humaines, Librairie A. G. Nizet.
- Devaux, Philippe (1937–38). "L'Aristotélisme et le Vitalisme de Gobineau," Revue Franco-belge, December/Janvier .
- Dreyfus, Robert (1905). La Vie et les Prophéties du Comte de Gobineau, Calmann-Lévy.
- Faÿ, Bernard (1930). Le Comte Arthur de Gobineau et la Grèce, H. Champion.
- Gahyva, Helga (2002). O Inimigo do Século – Um Estudo Sobre Arthur de Gobineau 1816–1882, IUPERJ.
- Kleinecke, Paul (1902). Gobineau's Rassenphilosophie, Haack.
- Lacretelle, Jacques de (1924). Quatre Études sur Gobineau, Á la Lampe d'Aladdin.
- Lange, Maurice (1924). Le Comte Arthur de Gobineau, Étude Biographique et Critique, Faculté de Lettres de Strasbourg.
- Raeders, George (1988). O Inimigo Cordial do Brasil: O Conde de Gobineau no Brasil, Paz & Terra.
- Riffaterre, Michael (1957). Le Style des Pléiades de Gobineau, E. Droz.
- Schemann, Ludwig (1913–16). Gobineau: eine Biographie, 2 Vol., K. J. Trübner.
- Schemann, Ludwig (1934). Gobineau und die Deutsche Kultur, B.G. Teubner.
- Smith, Annette (1984). Gobineau et l'Histoire Naturelle, E. Droz.
- Spiess, Camille (1917). Impérialismes; la Conception Gobinienne de la Race, E. Figuière & Cie.
- Thomas, Louis (1941). Arthur de Gobineau, Inventeur du Racisme (1816–1882), Mercure de France.
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