Arthur de Gobineau

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Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau.jpg
Portrait of Gobineau, by the Comtesse de la Tour, 1876
Born (1816-07-14)14 July 1816
Ville-d'Avray, Hauts-de-Seine
Died 13 October 1882(1882-10-13) (aged 66)
Turin
Nationality French

Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau (14 July 1816 – 13 October 1882) was a French aristocrat who was best known by his contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat and travel writer but is today most remembered for developing the theory of the Aryan master race and helping to legitimise racism by scientific racist theory and racial demography. Gobineau was an elitist who, in the immediate aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848, wrote a 1400-page book, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, in which he claimed that aristocrats were superior to commoners and that they possessed more Aryan genetic traits because of less inbreeding with inferior races (Alpines and Mediterraneans).

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 but omitted around 1000 pages of the original book, including those parts that negatively described Americans as a racially mixed population. Gobineau's writings were also influential on prominent anti-Semites such as Richard Wagner, the Romanian far-right politician professor A. C. Cuza and leaders of the Nazi Party, who later edited and re-published his work.

Life and theories[edit]

Gobineau came from an old well-established aristocratic family.[1] His father, Louis (1784-1858), was military officer and staunch royalist,[2] and his mother, Anne-Louise Magdeleine de Gercy, was the daughter of a non-noble royal tax official. As a young man, Gobineau was fascinated with the Orient as the Middle East was known in Europe in the 19th century (it was only with World War II that East Asia become the Orient and the term Middle East started to be used for the region).[3] 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".[4] Gobineau loved "Oriental" tales like those by the French writer Antoine Gallard, often stated he wanted to become an Orientalist, becoming what the French call "un orientaliste de pacotille".[5]

In the later years of the July Monarchy, Gobineau made his living writing serialized fiction (romans-feuilletons) and contributing to reactionary periodicals. He struck up a friendship and had voluminous correspondence with Alexis de Tocqueville.[6][7][8][9] The latter man gave Gobineau an appointment in the Quai d'Orsay (the French foreign ministry) while serving as foreign minister during the Second Republic of France.[10]

Gobineau served as a successful diplomat for the Second French Empire. Initially he was posted to Persia, before working in Brazil and other countries. In his own lifetime, Gobineau was known as a novelist, as a poet and for the travel writing recounting his adventures in the Middle East and Brazil rather than for the racial theories for which he is now mostly remembered.[11] However, Gobineau always regarded his book Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines as his masterpiece and wanted to be remembered as the author of that work.[11] A firm reactionary who believed in the innate superiority of aristocrats over commoners – who the snobbish Gobineau held in utter contempt – Gobineau came to embrace scientific racism as a way of justifying aristocratic rule over racially inferior commoners.[12] Under the shock of the Revolution of 1848, Gobineau had first expressed his racial theories in his 1848 epic poem Manfredine where he expressed his fear that the revolution of 1848 was the beginning of the end of aristocratic Europe with the common folk descended from lesser breeds taking over.[12]

Theory on French aristocrats[edit]

Reflecting his disdain for ordinary people, Gobineau claimed that French aristocrats like himself were the descendants of the Germanic Franks who conquered the Roman province of Gaul in the 5th century AD while common French people were the descendants of racially inferior Celtic and Latin peoples. This was an old theory first promoted in a tract by Count Henri de Boulainvilliers who had argued that Second Estate (the aristocracy) was of "Frankish" blood and the Third Estate (the commoners) were of "Gaulish" blood.[13] The Canadian theologian, Reverend Alan T. Davies wrote that in ancien régime France was characterized by extremely rigid social distinctions and that unlike Britain with its "open aristocracy", the French nobility had evolved into a "caste".[14] Again unlike Britain where there was a certain sense of Britishness linking the different levels of society, the French Second Estate had literally come to view the Third Estate as biologically different from and inferior to themselves.[14] As someone born after the French Revolution had destroyed the idealized ancien régime of his imagination, Gobineau felt a deep sense of pessimism regarding the future.[15] Davies described Gobineau as someone who was extremely "alienated" from the society and age he was living in, and wrote that Gobineau's frequent prophecies about the coming destruction of European civilization as there was not enough Aryan blood left to sustain Europe reflected the fact that Gobineau, who was unable to embrace his age instead wished for its destruction.[16] For Gobineau, 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 progress of decline and degeneration which could only end with the utter collapse of European civilization.[13] For Gobineau, what the French Revolution had begun, the Industrial Revolution was finishing and, for him, industrialization and urbanization were a complete disaster for Europe.[17] Gobineau was no socialist, but he had an intense hatred of capitalism, which allowed for poor men to rise up and become rich by their own talents and skills, something that was an affront to everything that Gobineau believed in.[17] Davies wrote about Gobineau:

Having identified his own fortunes with a caste that had been overthrown in 1789, he detested an age that had turned against his aristocratic (racial) linage and values. In his estrangement, he consoled himself with sad reflections on the impending death of civilization, although there is sufficient narcissism in his pages to suggest that his own death was also the object-perhaps the true object-of his contemplation...To the jaded man-of-letters, the would-be aristocrat, these "deep stagnant waters" over which the fragile structure of civilization was suspended were steadily rising, and France – and Europe – would soon be submerged.[18]

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.[17] Gobineau loathed modern Paris, a city he called a "giant cesspool" full of les déracinés; the criminal, impoverished, drifting men with no real home; whom Gobineau considered to be the monstrous products of centuries of miscegenation who were always ready to explode in revolutionary violence at any moment.[18] Gobineau 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.[16]

Theory on culture[edit]

Gobineau came to believe that race created culture, arguing that distinctions among the three races – "black", "white", and "yellow" – were natural barriers, and that "race-mixing" breaks those barriers and leads to chaos. Of the three races, Gobineau argued that blacks were physically very strong, but incapable of intelligent thought.[19] Regarding the "yellows" as Gobineau called Asians, he claimed that they were physically and intellectually mediocre, but had an extremely strong materialism that allowed them to achieve certain results.[19] Finally, Gobineau wrote that whites were the best and greatest of the three races as whites and whites alone were the only ones capable of intelligent thought, were physically the most beautiful and were the only ones capable of creating beauty.[19] Gobineau wrote that "The white race originally possessed the monopoly of beauty, intelligence and strength" and that whatever of the positive qualities the Asians and blacks possessed was due to subsequent miscegenation.[20] 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.[21] Gobineau took the term Aryan ("light one" or "noble one") from Hindu legend and mythology where recounts 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 much public interest in the discovery by Orientalists like William Jones of the Indo-European family of languages and that apparently unrelated languages such as English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Russian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Kurdish, Farsi and so forth were all part of the same family of languages spoken across a wide swath of Eurasia from Ireland to the Indian subcontinent.[22] 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 that the Indo-European peoples were a racial group rather than a linguistic group.[23] As such Gobineau argued on the basis of the Hindu scriptures which stated that the highest castes are the descendants of the Aryans that the Hindu caste system reflected an admirable determination of the Aryans to attempt to preserve their superior blood from being intermixed with the racially inferior, conquered peoples.[24] Gobineau wrote that it was the conversion of much of the Indian subcontinent to Buddhism with its message of universal salvation before the Hindu revival recaptured the subcontinent for Hinduism that led to the higher Hindu castes having their blood "soiled" via sex with racial inferiors.[25]

Gobineau believed that the white race had originated somewhere in Siberia, the Asians in the Americas and the blacks in Africa.[20] Gobineau thought that the numerical superiority of the Asians had forced the whites into making a vast migration that led them into Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent and that both the Bible and Hindu legends about the conquering Aryan heroes reflected folk memories of this migration.[26] In turn, the whites had broken into three sub-races, namely the Hamitic, Semitic and Japhetic peoples – the latter were the Aryans of Hindu legend and were the best and greatest of all the whites.[27] Gobineau, mindful of his own supposed noble and Frankish descent classified the Germanic peoples as being the Aryans in Europe.[28] At the same time, in southeast Asia the blacks and Asians had intermixed to create the sub-race of the Malays.[27] He classified Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa as racially mixed.[29] Despite his pride in being French, Gobineau who did not approve of the French Revolution 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.[30] Gobineau's contempt for ordinary people emerges from his letters where his preferred term for common folk was la boue ("the mud").[31]

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. In his An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, he ultimately accepts the prevailing Christian doctrine that all human beings shared the common ancestors Adam and Eve (monogenism as opposed to polygenism). But, he suggested 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."[29]

Gobineau believed that the white race was superior to the other races in the creation of civilized culture and maintenance of ordered government. The American historian Geoffrey Field summarized Gobineau's work as:

Written after the Revolutions of 1848-49, the Essai was a post-mortem of the old aristocratic order in Europe, characterized by reverence for hierarchy, social status and family lineage...Superior in beauty, intellect and creative vigor, the white race (and especially its illustrious Aryan branch) was the bearer of culture and civilization, responsible for the triumphs of the past. But the process of civilization inevitably involved miscegenation with inferior breeds, leading to a slow debilitation of the noble race over centuries. For Gobineau, history revealed the tragic "fall" of man from a presumed racial purity into a degenerate condition of racial corruption and mongrelization. Pockets of Aryan blood remained, especially among the nobility, but decline was inevitable and irreversible.

Contemporary society, argued Gobineau, offered abundant proof of his conclusions. Revolutionary convulsions, false egalitarian and democratic ideals, the selfish materialism of the bourgeoisie, and the phlegmatic response of the nobility to these challenges were inescapable symptoms of depravity. France was exhausted, Britain was being slowly corrupted by liberalism, while, as Michael Biddiss has shown, Gobineau was by no means sympathetic towards Prussia. If anything, in his last years he viewed the process of decay as accelerating: in a cold, objectivist and ironical tone he depicted a global crisis and a vision of racial doom.[32]

Gobineau thought that 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, and so a talented black or Asian individual did not disapprove his thesis about the supposed inferiority of the black and Asian races.[33] Gobineau 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.[34]

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 the steam power?[35]

Gobineau went on to write: "Nowhere is the soil more fertile, the climate more milder than in certain parts of America. There is an abundance of great rivers, the gulfs, the bays, the harbors are large, deep, magnificent and innumerable. Precious metals can be dug out almost at the surface of the ground."[36] Gobineau argued the failure as he saw it of the American Indians of North America to create a civilization comparable to that of Europe proved his thesis of white supremacy as he maintained that climate and geography of North America was better than Europe yet no great cities, art, or inventions ever emerged from the Indians.[37]

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.[38] This included groups classified by language, for example the Celts, Slavs and the Germans.[39][40]

Gobineau later came to use and reserve the term Aryan only for the "German race" and described the Aryans as 'la race germanique'.[41] By doing so he presented a racist theory in which Aryans – that is Germans – were all that was positive[42] 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.[43] Like many other racists, Gobineau believed that one's looks determined what one did, or in other words, beautiful people created beautiful art while ugly people created ugly art.[43] Gobineau's theory had a major influence on National Socialist aesthetes. In 1970, the American historian Gerhard Weinberg summarized up the Nazi view of the relationship between race and art as: "The cultural accomplishments of civilizations are the product of their racial composition – the great artists of Renaissance times were all Nordics whose works reflect their own appearance, while the monstrosities of modern art only mirror the appearances of their creators. Botticelli must have been as slim as his famous Venus, Rubens must have been as corpulent as the figures he painted and Picasso presumably has three eyes. Anyone who considers this summary as unfair is urged to examine Paul Schultze-Naumburg's Kunst und Rasse (Munich: Lehmann, 1928, 1935) , since the illustrations convey its message to anyone who does not read German".[44] The British Sinologist Arnold Rowbotham wrote that for Gobineau the superiority of the Aryan was a totally "amoral superiority" as for Gobineau's Aryan heroes "might was right".[45] Gobineau wrote that Aryans in their original, pure state did whatever they liked because they were superior to anyone else and had no external morality. Rowbotham wrote about Gobineau's Aryan theories that: "Stripped of its racial mysticism it makes force a virtue and even a necessity. Carried to its logical conclusion, it would mean a return to barbarism, for Gobineau at least implies that all the arts of civilization are non-Aryan or, at least the result of race-mixing."[45] Gobineau 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 that whites were the most beautiful of his races, Gobineau believed somewhat contradictory that Asian and black women had immense powers of sexual attraction over white men (for reasons that he never explained Gobineau did not attribute Asian and black men with the same sexual powers he had attributed to black and Asian women), and that 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 the whites.[27] Through not expressly obsessed with antisemitism, Gobineau saw the Jews as praiseworthy for their ability to avoid miscegenation while at the same time depicting the Jews as another alien force for the decay of Aryan Europe.[46]

Gobineau attributed much of the economic turmoil in France to pollution of races. Later in his life, with the spread of British and American civilization and the growth of Germany, he altered his opinion to believe that the white race could be saved. The German-born American historian George Mosse argued that Gobineau projected all of his fears and hatreds about the French middle class and working class onto the Asians and the blacks.[47] 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.[48] In his writings on the French peasantry, Gobineau characteristically insisted in numerous anecdotes that 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, and as the American critic Michelle Wright that wrote "the peasant may inhabit the land, but they are certainly not part of it...".[49] Wright further noted the very marked similarity between Gobineau's picture of the French peasantry and his view of blacks.[49]

The Persian fetish[edit]

In 1855, Gobineau left Paris to become the first secretary at the French legation in Tehran, Persia (modern Iran), being promoted to chargé d'affaires the next year.[50] Gobineau served as a French diplomat in the Free City of Frankfurt, the Kingdom of Hanover, the Swiss Confederation, the British Crown colony of Newfoundland and the Empire of Brazil, all of which he hated, and Persia together with Greece were the only places that Gobineau was stationed in that he'll ever had an affection for.[51] Gobineau's time was not taxed by his diplomatic duties, and he spent much time studying ancient cuneiform texts and learning Farsi, coming to speak a "kitchen Farsi" that allowed him to talk to the Persians somewhat (Gobineau was never fluent in Farsi as he claimed to be).[52] Despite having some love for the Persians, Gobineau was shocked that the Persians lacked his racial prejudices and were willing to accept blacks as equals, and criticized Persian society for being too "democratic".[53] The British Orientalist Robert Irwin commented that "Only Gobineau could had classified Qajar Iran in the 1850s as too democratic" as Qajar Persia was an absolute monarchy with the Shah Naser al-Din having no limits on his powers whatever.[54] Gobineau was dismissive of Persia's prospects, writing the Persians are "rascals who are near enough are our cousins...This is what we shall become tomorrow...Nothing great, nothing tragic has happened here since the time of Herodotus".[55] Gobineau saw Persia as a land without a future that was destined to be conquered by the West sooner or later, which for him was a tragedy for the West as he believed that Western men would all too easily be seduced by the beautiful Persian women, thus causing more miscegenation to further "corrupt" the West.[56] However, Gobineau was obsessed with ancient Persia, seeing in Achaemenid Persia a great and glorious Aryan civilization, now sadly gone, that was to preoccupy him for the rest of his life.[57] Gobineau loved to visit the ruins of Achaemenid period as his mind was fundamentally backward looking as he preferred to contemplate past glories rather what he saw as a dismal present and even more bleaker future.[58] Gobineau's time in Persia inspired two books, Mémoire sur l'etat social de la Perse actuelle (1858) and Trois ans en Asie (1859).[59]

Nott and Hotze[edit]

In 1856, the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines was translated into English. The translators were two American "race scientists", Josiah C. Nott and Henry Hotze, both ardent white supremacists (Nott also described his work as "niggerogy") and champions of slavery who found in Gobineau's anti-black writings a convenient justification for the "peculiar institution".[60] Nott and Hotz found much to approve of in the Essai such as passages like the following where Gobineau wrote: "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".[61] 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 a mere 400 in English.[62] At least part of why Hotze and Nott cut out so much was because of Gobineau's hostile picture of Americans. About white American people, Gobineau declared in the Essai:

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 juxtapositions of the most decadent kinds of people.[63]

Passages like the above which were highly critical of white Americans were removed by Nott and Hotze from The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, as the Essai was titled in English; they retained only the parts relating to the alleged inherent inferiority of blacks.[64] Likewise, Nott and Hotze used Gobineau as a way of attempting to establish that white America was in fact in mortal peril as despite the fact that the vast majority of American blacks were slaves in 1856, as the two "race scientists" argued on the basis of the Essai that blacks were essentially a type of vicious animal rather human beings who would always pose a danger to whites.[65] 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 that of the stupidest whites were not included in the American edition, as Nott and Hotze wanted nothing that might even in the slightest give blacks admirable human qualities.[66] Beyond that, Nott and Hotz claimed that nation and race were one and the same, and that to be American was to be white.[67] 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.[68]

A voyage to Newfoundland[edit]

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 tried to send Gobineau to the French legation in Beijing, but Gobineau objected that as a "civilized European", he had no wish to go to an Asian country like China.[69] As punishment, Walewski sent Gobineau to Newfoundland, telling him he would be fired from the Quai d'Orsay if he refused the Newfoundland assignment.[70] 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."[71] While in Newfoundland, Gobineau 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.[72] Gobineau's praise for Newfoundland fishermen reflected his viewpoint that those who cut themselves off from society best preserve their racial purity.[73] In contrast, Gobineau in his dispatches back to Paris condemned the recruiting methods of the British Royal Navy based upon offering financial rewards to the sailors who enlisted as reflecting the vulgar crude, crass materialism of the British people both in Britain and even more so in British North America while he praised the recruiting methods of the French Imperial Navy based on appeals to French patriotism as reflecting the spiritual strength of the French people.[74] Gobineau was in particular struck by the way that newspapers in Halifax condemned the Royal Navy for offering generous signing up bonuses to sailors as a major problem as it forced the local ship-owners to offer higher wages to their sailors to prevent them from joining the Navy, which Gobineau used to argue that the Nova Scotians were utterly materialistic.[74] 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, stating the Irish of St. John's were extremely poor, undisciplined, conniving, obstreperous, dishonest, loud, violent, and usually drunk.[75] Apart from touring Newfoundland, Gobineau paid a visit to Labrador to hunt caribou, an experience that provided the basis of his autobiographical 1871 short story La chasse au caribou ("The caribou hunt"). During his time in Labrador, Gobineau encountered First Nations peoples, whom he called les sauvages ("the savages") a common term in his day.[76] Based upon his visits to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (the Gassendi, the French Navy ship Gobineau was travelling on visited Halifax to pick up coal), Gobineau reached the conclusion that almost all people in North America were hopelessly materialistic and Western civilization only existed in Europe.[77]

Return to Persia[edit]

In 1861, Gobineua returned to Tehran as the French minister.[78] Gobineau lived a modest, ascetic lifestyle and become engulfed with an obsession with ancient Persia that soon got out of him as he sought to prove that ancient Persia was founded by his much admired Aryans, leading him to engage in what Irwin called "deranged" theories about Persia's history.[79] In 1865 Gobineau published Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale, an account of his travels in Persia and encounters with the various esoteric Islamic sects he discovered being practiced out in the Persian countryside.[80] Gobineau's mystical frame of mind led him to feel in Persia what he called "un certain plaisir" ("a certain pleasure") as no else in the world did he feel the same sort of joy he felt when viewing the ruins of Persia.[81] Gobineau had a low opinion of Islam, a religion invented by the Arab Mohammed, who Gobineau viewed thus as part of the "Semitic race", unlike the Persians whose Indo-European language led Gobineau to see them as Aryans.[82] 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.[83] Gobineau's understanding of Persia was distorted and confused as he mistakenly believed that Shi'ism was practiced only in Persia, that in Shi'ism the Imam Ali is much more venerated than Mohammad and he was unaware that Shia Islam only became the state religion of Persia under the Safavids.[84] Based on his own experiences, Gobineau believed that the Persians did not really believe in Islam with the faith of the Prophet just being a mere cover over a society that still preserved many pre-Islamic features.[85] 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.[86] Gobineau was one of the first Westerners to examine the esoteric sects of Persia, and through his work was idiosyncratic, he did spark scholarly interest in an aspect of Persia that had been ignored by Westerners until then.[87] Gobineau's command of Farsi was only average and his Arabic was even worse, but since there were few Western Orientalists who knew Farsi, Gobineau was able to pass himself off for decades as a leading Orientalist who knew Persia like no one else.[88]

Only with his studies in ancient Persia did Gobineau came under fire from scholars.[89] Gobineau published two books on ancient Persia, Lectures des textes cunéformes (1858) and Traité des écitures cunéformes (1864).[90] 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".[91] One of the principle 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.[92] Gobineau's books met with hostile reception from scholars who argued that Gobineau simply did not understand the texts that he was purporting to translate.[93] Gobineau's article attempting to rebut his critics in the Journal asiatique was not published as the editors had to politely tell Gobineau that his article was "unpublishable" as it was full of "absurd" claims and vitriolic abuse of his critics.[94] 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 écitures cunéformes, a book that Irwin called "a monument to learned madness".[95] Gobineau was always very proud of the latter book, seeing it as a magnum opus that rivaled the Essai.[96] Gobineau had often traveled from Tehran to the Ottoman Empire to visit the ruins of Dur-Sharrukin at Khursbad near Mosul in what is now northern Iraq.[97] The ruins of Khursbad are Assyrian, built by King Sargon II in 717 BC, but Gobineau decided that the ruins were actually Persian and built by Darius the Great some two hundred years later.[98] Furthermore, Gobineau decided that language found on some of the cuneiform texts at Khursbad was Arabic as people in the Ottoman vilayet (province) of Mosul spoke Arabic, leading him to the conclusion that the people in the region had always spoke Arabic and there was no difference between ancient Arabic and modern Arabic.[99] Irwin wrote that as "wrong" as Gobineau was in all his conclusions so far, what he published was "even stranger" as Gobineau who was caught up in his obsession with the occult offered up various mistranslations of the cuneiform texts into a highly poetical French that said a great deal about the occult in modern Europe and nothing about the ancient Near East.[100] The French archeologist Paul-Émile Botta published a scathing review of Traité des écitures cunéformes in the Journal asiatique saying the cuneifoem texts at the Dur-Sharrukin were Akkadian, that Gobineau did not know what he was talking about, and that the only reason why he even written this review was just to prove that he had wasted his time reading Traité des écitures cunéformes.[101] The leading French Orientalist Julius von Mohl of the Société asiatique was forced to intervene in the dispute that was troubling the society as Gobineau insistently pressed his thesis 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 he could say in favor was that he admired the "artistry" of Gobineau's thesis.[102]

Minister to Greece[edit]

In 1864, Gobineau become the French minister to Greece.[103] During his time in Athens, which together with Tehran were the only cities he was stationed in that he liked, Gobineau spent his time writing poetry and learning sculpture when not travelling with Ernest Renan out in the Greek countryside in search of ruins.[104] In the spring of 1866, the Christian Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Empire on the island of Crete and three emissaries arrived in Athens to ask Gobineau for French support of the uprising, saying that it was well known that France was the champion of justice and of the "small nations".[105] As France was heavily engaged in the war in Mexico, Gobineau speaking on behalf of Napoleon III informed the Cretans to expect no support from France and that they were on their own in taking on the might of the Ottoman Empire.[106] 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 the uprising.[107] 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 Marseilles.[108] L'affaire Flourens become a cause célèbre in France with the 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.[109] With French public opinion widely condemning the minister in Athens, Gobineau was recalled to Paris in disgrace.[110] In 1871, Flourens fought for the Paris Commune and after surrendering on 3 April 1871, Captain Jean-Marc Démaret of the French Army used his sword to smash Flourens's head apart.[111] On 6 April 1871, Gobineau mentioned in a letter his great pleasure at the news of Flourens's death.[112]

Minister to Brazil[edit]

In 1869, Gobineau was appointed the French minister to Brazil.[113] In 1869 France and Brazil did not have diplomatic relations at an ambassadorial level, instead having legations headed by ministers. Gobineau was unhappy that the Quai d'Orsay had sent him to Brazil, which he viewed as a insufficiently grand posting for himself.[114] Gobineau landed in Rio de Janeiro during the riotously sensual Carnival, which disgusted him and from that moment onward Gobineau detested Brazil, which he saw as a culturally backward and unsanitary place of diseases, dreading that he might fall victim to the yellow fever that decimated the population of Brazil on a regular basis.[115] The only thing that pleased Gobineau as he landed in Rio was seeing the black slaves whose backs bore the scars of whippings unload his luggage.[116] 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.[117] Gobineau 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".[118] Gobineau wrote that Brazilians are "neither hard-working, active nor fertile".[119] Based on all this, Gobineau reached the conclusion that all human life would cease in Brazil within the next 200 years under the grounds of "genetic degeneracy".[120] Gobineau argued that the only way the Brazilians could save themselves from themselves was for the few Brazilians with European blood to "fortify" themselves by only marrying immigrants from Europe while preventing the rest from breeding, though how was to be done was left unexplained.[121] Gobineau argued if this was done, then "the race would revive, public health would improve, the moral temperament would be reinvigorated and the best possible social changes would occur in this admirable country".[122] Gobineau was not popular in Brazil as 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.[123] Gobineau wrote about Brazil: "Everyone is ugly here, unbelievably ugly, like apes".[124] Gobineau's only friend during his time in Rio was the Emperor Pedro II, whom Gobineau praised as a wise and great leader, noting the Emperor's blue eyes and blond hair as proof that Pedro was an Aryan.[125] The fact Pedro was of the House of Braganza left Gobineau assured that 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.[126] Gobineau's attitudes led him to spent much of his time feuding with the Brazilian elite and in 1870 Gobineau 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.[127] As a result of the brawl, Pedro asked Paris to have his friend recalled as otherwise he would have to declare Gobineau persona non grata.[128] Rather than suffer the humiliation of having the French minister declared persona non grata for engaging in a fist-fight on the streets of Rio, the Quai d'Orsay promptly recalled Gobineau.[129]

Chinese civilization[edit]

Gobineau argued that Chinese civilization had been created by a group of Aryan conquerors from India who had brought under their heel the indigenous Malay people living there.[130] Though Gobineau had read virtually everything written in French about China, he believed that the origins of Chinese civilization were in southern China where he posited that the Aryans from India had first arrived rather than the Yellow river valley which all Chinese sources regard as the "cradle" of Chinese civilization.[131] Gobineau argued that the Aryans being a conquering elite had taken a "masculine rather than feminine" approach to establishing their rule.[131] This in turn had led to a "peaceful despotism" well suited to the "Malay disposition" based on servility to the state, the capacity "to grasp the advantages of a regular and co-ordinated state organization" and an obsession with an "exclusively material well-being".[132] Through Gobineau argued that the Chinese had been able to make some progress under the influence of their Aryan elite, ultimately miscegenation led to this elite being assimilated into the "yellow" majority, and thus the Chinese were not capable of making any further progress.[133] For Gobineau, the crucial moment occurred in 246 BC when Qin Shi Huang, the "First Emperor" unified all of the Chinese states into one.[133] He argued that Qin had destroyed the "feudal" system created by the ancient Aryan conquerors and replaced it with "imperial leveling" that ended the Aryan elite; Gobineau wrote "There was only this innovation, great nonetheless in itself, that this last trace of independence, of personal dignity as understood in the Aryan manner had disappeared forever before the definitive invasions of the Yellow Type [l'espèce jaune]".[133] As such, Gobineau argued that the Chinese were a static people incapable of change and that essentially that nothing significant had occurred in China since 246 BC and his time.[133] Furthermore, Gobineau argued that the Chinese were fundamentally a materialist people devoid of any sort of spirituality.[133] The contrast between the Chinese ideal of a "gentleman scholar" as the supreme example of what a Chinese man should and the low social prestige of soldiers within China reflected what Gobineau disparaging saw as the materialist ordination of the Chinese.[134] By contrast, he argued that Aryans were first and foremost warriors, which, he approvingly explained, was why soldiers had such high social prestige in Europe.[135] Gobineau wrote with contempt that because of their materialism, for the Chinese happiness was to be found in having sufficient food to keep oneself alive and sufficient clothing to avoid public nudity.[136] He did not believe in the freedom of the press as he believed that ordinary people needed to be monitored by the state, but he argued that freedom of the press was possible in China because the "exclusively utilitarian" nature of the Chinese meant unlike in the West, there was no-one in China willing to fight and die for their ideas.[137] Gobineau wrote that as long the Chinese population was well provided for, no Chinese "would bother to confront police truncheons for the greater glory of a political abstraction".[138]

Along the same lines, Gobineau argued that Chinese culture was "without beauty and dignity";[139] 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 of the good: economy, moderation, prudence, the art of making a profit and never a loss".[140] Gobineau had been stationed in Geneva early in his diplomatic career, and during his time there had developed an intense, visceral hatred of the Swiss middle class, Calvinism, and of Swiss democracy, and his attempt to associate Confucian values with Calvinist values was definitely meant to be an insult to both.[141] Gobineau considered all Chinese literature was "puerile", as the Chinese lacked the powers of the imagination that allowed Westerners to write great novels, Chinese theater was considered "flat" and Chinese poetry "ridiculous".[142] The "great Chinese scientific works" were "verbose compilations" lacking in the analytic rigor, which according to Gobineau whites alone were capable of achieving.[143] He asserted that 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".[144] Gobineau believed that China was a warning to the West of the perils of "democracy" – by which he meant meritocracy.[145] 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, thus reflecting the racially "stagnant" character of the Chinese.[146] Gobineau believed that the best form of government had existed in the Ancien Régime France with rule by a hereditary aristocratic elite in ordered, hierarchical society. As such, Gobineau was extremely opposed to classical liberalism with its celebration of meritocracy, and he used the example of China as a warning about where classical liberals were taking the West.[147] The supposed destruction of the Aryan elite by Qin in 246 BC was "a fact absolutely similar to what took place chez nous in 1789, when the innovating spirit saw as its first necessity the destruction of the ancient territorial subdivisions [of France]".[148] About the demands of classical liberals for universal education, Gobineau wrote:

Popular education everywhere promoted, emphasis on the well-being of subjects, complete liberty in the allotted sphere, the fullest industrial and agricultural development, production at the most modest prices, rendering all European competition difficult for the ordinary necessities of life like cotton, silk and pottery. These are the incontestable results of which the Chinese system can boast.[149]

Later on, in an essay criticizing the Third Republic, Gobineau wrote that most people republic meant the "chimera of liberty" via the "rule of merit", where all would be given the equal chances to rise through their abilities.[150] He contemptuously noted that the "principle of 1789" was no different from the rule by mandarins in China, and predicted that if the republic continued to exist long enough, the French would "degenerate" down to the same level as the Chinese.[151]

Empires[edit]

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 that 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 that the populations of southern and western Iran, southern Spain and Italy consisted of a degenerative race arising from miscegenation, and that 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.[31] He described the Slavs as "a stagnant marsh in which all superior ethnic strains after a few hours of triumph found themselves engulfed".[31]

Novels and essays[edit]

Besides promoting racism, Gobineau also wrote several well received novels. In his native France, he has been and is still is often praised by literary critics as a master of French style whose novels were written with elegant verve and a superb sense of irony.[152] The French critic Pierre-Louis Rey and the British historian Michael D. Biddiss have both decried the tendency of the part of French critics to sever Gobineau the racist from Gobineau the novelist, maintaining that Gobineau's novels just as much reflect his racial theories as does the Essai.[152] 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.[152] In his introduction to Les Pléiades, Gobineau stated that the purpose of the novel was 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".[152] In Les Pléiades, the selected few flee from modern France to the fictional country of Burbach, which is located somewhere in Central Europe in an attempt to maintain the purity of their blood while they half-sadly, half-contently watch the destruction of European civilization from the safety of Burbach.[153] Throughout Les Pléiades, ordinary people are described variously as "fools", "scoundrels" and "brutes" whom Gobineau likens to animals.[154] 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 of being surrounded by an endless multitude of debased inferiors.[155] In La Renaissance, Gobineau attacked the entire idea of morality as the basis of action, arguing that superior few should not be governed by any set of universal moral values.[156] 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.[157] In La Renaissance, Gobineau has Alexander tell Lucretia Borgia: "For the kind of person whom destiny calls to dominate others, the ordinary rules of life are reversed and duty becomes quite different. Good and evil are transferred to another and higher plane...".[158] Another one of Gobineau's novels was his Nouvelles Asiatiques of 1876, which concerned the impact of miscegenation in modern Asia as reflected in the life stories of a diverse group of people.[159] Nouvelles Asiatiques is unique as the only one of Gobineau's novels to feature non-white protagonists, and through in common with his other novels is fundamentally pessimistic in its message, it also allowed Gobineau's intense Persiaophilia to shine through as Gobineau had a deep affection for Persia (modern Iran).[160] Biddiss wrote that Gobineau's philosophy was one of "utter dehumanization" of the weak and a glorification of the strong, making Gobineau into an incipient fascist with his thesis that amoral violence was completely acceptable when committed by the Aryan elite.[161] Biddiss argued that it was impossible to sever Gobineau the racist from Gobineau the novelist as several French critics had attempted to do, and that everything that Gobineau wrote was the expression of the same philosophy.[162]

After reading the Essai, de Tocqueville had told Gobineau that: "alone in Europe, the Germans...could provide you with a really favorable audience".[163] In 1874, Gobineau met the homosexual German diplomat Prince Philip von Eulenburg in Stockholm and become very close to him.[164] Eulenburg was later to fondly recall 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."[164] Gobineau in his turn was later to write that only two people in the entire world had ever properly understood his racist philosophy, namely Wagner and Eulenburg.[164] 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."[164] Later, Eulenburg was to complain that all of his letters to Gobineau had to be destroyed because “They contain too much of an intimately personal nature”.[165] In 1879, Gobineau attempted to prove his own racial superiority over the rest of the French with his pseudo-family history Historie 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), which begins with the line "I descend from Odin", and traces Gobineau's supposed descent from the Viking Ottar Jarl, which for Gobineau triumphantly meant he was of Aryan descent.[166]

Wagner[edit]

Though a proud Frenchman, Gobineau was fairly cosmopolitan and regarded himself as a part of a cultured European elite that transcended national loyalties, a good Frenchman but even more so a "good European"; the aristocratic Gobineau felt more affinity for fellow aristocrats of other nationalities than he did for French commoners.[167] The Czech historian Ivo Budil called Gobineau "...a cosmopolitan thinker who did not feel wholly French" and who was obsessed with ancient Greece and Persia.[168] In 1876, he accompanied his close friend Emperor Pedro II of Brazil on his trip to Russia, Greece and the Ottoman Empire and introduced him to both Emperor Alexander II of Russia and the Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire.[169] Gobineau took Pedro on a guided tour of Athens, a city that Gobineau called "heaven on earth" due to its ruins.[170] Inspired by his last visit to Greece, Gobineau started writing what become his 1878 book Le Royaume des Hellènes arguing that the achievements of ancient Greece were all due to the Aryans and that there no connection between the ancient Greeks and modern Greeks as the Aryan blood was all gone.[171] After leaving Pedro in Constantinople, Gobineau traveled to Rome for a private audience with Pope Pius IX.[30] During his visit to Rome, Gobineau met and befriended the German composer Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima Wagner.[172] 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.[172] Gobineau in his turn was greatly impressed with Wagner's music and unusually for a Frenchman, Gobineau became a member of the Bayreuth Circle.[172] Wagner was fascinated by Gobineau's racial theories and much of his writings from 1876 onwards showed Gobineau's influence.[173] 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.".[173]

After becoming associated with Wagner, many of Gobineau's ideas were incorporated into Wagner's later operas.[32] 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."[174] Gobineau wrote back to say: "I assure you there is no Bayreuthian more faithful than I".[174] Wagner, while accepting the basic ideas of Gobineau's into his philosophy, rejected Gobineau's pessimism about the fate of the Aryans.[174] Instead, Wagner created the concept of regeneration, where the Aryans would return to their former glory by embracing his theories of art and rejecting what Wagner called the corrupting influence of the Jews.[174] In 1894, the Wagnerite and anti-Semitic journalist Ludwig Schemann founded the Gobineau Vereinigung (Gobineau Society) to promote Gobineau's theories in Germany.[175] The Gobineau Vereinigung was a small group, but it exercised much intellectual influence, and in this way did much to popularize the theory of an Aryan master-race in Germany.[175] The Gobineauismus that Schemann and the Gobineau Vereinigung promoted owed as much to Wagner as it to Gobineau for the Gobineau Vereinigung rejected Gobineau's pessimism and claimed that the Aryan race could be saved.[176]

"The Yellow Peril"[edit]

Völker Europas, wahrt eure heiligsten Güter ("Peoples of Europe, guard your dearest goods," 1895) "The Yellow Peril" painting. Much of the imagery appears drawn from Gobineau's anti-Asian writings, via his friend Prince Philip von Eulenburg who helped with turning Wilhelm II's sketch into the painting.

In the last years of his life Gobineau was consumed with the fear of what was later to be known as the "Yellow Peril", believing that European civilization would soon be destroyed by a Chinese invasion.[177] In 1881, Gobineau published an article in Richard Wagner's newspaper the Bayreuther Blätter entitled "Ein Urteil über die jetzige Weltage" which was translated into German by Cosima Wagner and whose introduction was written by her husband warning that the Chinese would soon "overwhelm" and destroy Western civilization.[178] 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.[179] Gobineau gave artistic expression to his vision in his 1881 epic poem Amadis where the a small elite of Aryan aristocrats ruling Europe are threatened by a revolt of racially inferior commoners which allows the Chinese to invade Europe; despite the fact that the Aryan heroes are superior in every respect to the Chinese "horde", the Aryans are finally overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers and are exterminated.[179] In Amadis, the extermination of the Aryans marks the destruction of everything good in the world and is the beginning of a new dark age. 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, and 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.[180] Likewise, the Franco-Chinese war led to the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines becoming popular in France.[181] 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 edition and third editions of the Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines were published in Paris, which was a direct result of the war as many French people suddenly become interested in a book that had such an unflattering picture of Asians.[182] The American historian Gregory Blue wrote that for Gobineau China was a "deadly, soulless menace" to the "white race", the merciless agent of impeding destruction of everything good in the world.[183] Many of the imagery from Amadis appears in the infamous painting "The Yellow Peril" by Hermann Knackfuss, which was inspired by a nightmare Kaiser Wilhelm II had in April 1895, where millions of Asians marched under a dark, stormy cloud in which was a dragon carrying a Buddha wreathed in flames, bringing death and destruction to Europe. As the first sketch of what was to become the painting done by the Kaiser looks very different from the finished product of September 1895, being considerably more nightmarish, disturbing and terrifying, Blue suggested that there was an "Eulenburg connection" at work here, arguing that Prince von Eulenburg who was probably Gobineau's lover and who certainly was the best friend of Wilhelm II had introduced themes from Gobineau's anti-Asian writings into The Yellow Peril as Knackfuss turned the sketch provided by Wilhelm into a painting.[184] The striking similarities between Gobineau's anti-Asian writings and The Yellow Peril painting can be best explained in that Eulenburg who knew well the writings of his "unforgettable friend" Gobineau was also deeply involved in helping Knackfuss turn the sketch Wilhelm had given him into a painting that could be presented in public.[185]

Nazism[edit]

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, and may be characterised as philosemitic,[186] 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.[187] In his later years, however, he inclined, according to Paul Lawrence Rose, toward "a vague personal antisemitism."[188] When the Nazis adopted Gobineau's theories, they edited his work extensively to make it conform to their views,[189] much as they did in the case of Nietzsche. Gobineau's theories were a major influence on the Romanian radical anti-Semitic politician Professor A. C. Cuza, who embraced Gobineau's biological racism as a way of "proving" that the Jews were a "plague" upon modern Romanian life.[190] Like most of Gobineau's followers, Cuza rejected his pessimism as too extreme, but Cuza 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.[190] Cuza, who was deeply impressed with Gobineau, often used Gobineau's theories and rhetoric of racial degeneration to frame his anti-Semitic arguments about the "Jewish race".[191] Cuza frequently claimed that the Jews were a "plague" upon Romania as Cuza asserted that the Romanian people were in the midst of the sort of racial degeneration described by Gobineau, which for Cuza was naturally all caused by the Jews.[191]

In his late writings, Richard Wagner was positive about Gobineau and suggested that 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. He thought that Christ died for everyone, irrespective of race, and from this he drew his hope for a fundamental regeneration. It was Cosima Wagner who maintained the close contact with Gobineau, not Wagner himself. Gobineau visited Bayreuth, the home of Wagner, shortly before his death.[192]

Writing[edit]

Though in no way espousing his beliefs, the Baha'i faith recognise 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.[citation needed] The manuscript is held by the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Gobineau wrote novels in addition to his works on race, notably Les Pléiades (1874). His study La Renaissance (1877) also was admired in his day. Both of these works strongly expressed his reactionary aristocratic politics, and his hatred of democratic mass culture.[193]

Works in English translation[edit]

Non-fiction[edit]

  • The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, J. B. Lippincott, 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.

Fiction[edit]

  • 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

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Arthur-comte-de-Gobineau
  2. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gobineau
  3. ^ Irwin, Robert "Gobineau the Would be Orientalist" pages 321-332 from The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 26, Issue 1, 2016 pages 321-322
  4. ^ Irwin, Robert "Gobineau the Would be Orientalist" pages 321-332 from The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 26, Issue 1, 2016 pages 321-322
  5. ^ Irwin, Robert "Gobineau the Would be Orientalist" pages 321-332 from The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 26, Issue 1, 2016 page 322
  6. ^ Richter, Melvin (1958). "The Study of Man. A Debate on Race: The Tocqueville-Gobineau Correspondence," Commentary 25 (2), pp. 151-160.
  7. ^ Alexis de Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau, John Lukacz (ed.), Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959.
  8. ^ Beloff, Max (1986). "Tocqueville & Gobineau," Encounter, Vol. LXVII, No. 1, pp. 29-31.
  9. ^ Tessitore, Aristide (2005). "Tocqueville and Gobineau on the Nature of Modern Politics," The Review of Politics, Vol. 67, No. 4, pp. 631-657.
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  12. ^ a b Blue (1999) page 99.
  13. ^ a b Davies (1988)
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  18. ^ a b Davies (1988) pages 59-60.
  19. ^ a b c Blue (1999) page 100.
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  22. ^ D'Souza, Dinesh "Is Racism a Western Idea?" pages 517-539 from The American łScholar, Vol. 64, No. 4 Autumn 1995 page 537.
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  24. ^ Blue, Gregory "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril," and the Critique of Modernity" pages 93-139 from Journal of World History Volume 10, Issue # 1, Spring 1999 page 103.
  25. ^ Rowbotham (1939), page 158
  26. ^ Blue, Gregory "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril," and the Critique of Modernity" pages 93-139 from Journal of World History Volume 10, Issue # 1, Spring 1999 pages 101-102.
  27. ^ a b c Blue, Gregory "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril," and the Critique of Modernity" pages 93-139 from Journal of World History Volume 10, Issue # 1, Spring 1999 page 102.
  28. ^ D'Souza, Dinesh "Is Racism a Western Idea?" pages 517-539 from The American Scholar, Vol. 64, No. 4 Autumn 1995 page 537.
  29. ^ a b J.A. Gobineau: The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races. J.B. Lippincott & Co, Philadelphia (1856), p.337–338
  30. ^ a b Blue, Gregory "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril" and the Critique of Modernity" pages 93-139 from Journal of World History Volume 10, Issue # 1, Spring 1999 page 97.
  31. ^ a b c Rowbotham (1939) page 161.
  32. ^ a b Field, Geoffrey The Evangelist of Race The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981 pages 152-153.
  33. ^ D'Souza, Dinesh "Is Racism a Western Idea?" pages 517-539 from The American Scholar, Vol. 64, No. 4 Autumn 1995 page 538.
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  38. ^ Mallory, J. P. (1991), In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Culture and Myth, London: Thames and Hudson, p. 125.
  39. ^ Nevenko Bartulin (4 July 2013). Honorary Aryans: National-Racial Identity and Protected Jews in the Independent State of Croatia. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-137-33912-6. 
  40. ^ Among the groups which Gobineau classified as Aryan were the Hindus, Iranians, Hellenes, Celts, Slavs, and the Germans. Ian Wood (September 2013). The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages. Oxford University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-965048-4. 
  41. ^ 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'.
  42. ^ 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. We see, then, that Gobineau 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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  44. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933-36, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1970 page 4
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  188. ^ 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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  190. ^ a b Bucur, Maria Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010 page 56.
  191. ^ a b Turda, Marius (April 2003). "Fantasies of Degeneration: Some Remarks on Racial Anti-Semitism in Interwar Romania". Institute of Human Sciences. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  192. ^ Bermbach, Udo, "Wagner und Gobineau: Zur Geschichte eines Missverständnisses", WagnerSpectrum 9/1 (2013), 243-258.
  193. ^ Beum, Robert (1997). "Ultra-Royalism Revisited," Modern Age, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3, pp. 290-322.
  • Blue, Gregory (Spring 1999). "Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the "Yellow Peril" and the Critique of Modernity"". Journal of World History. 10 (1): 93–139. JSTOR 20078751. 
  • Davies, Alan (1988). Infected Christianity: A Study of Modern Racism. McGill-Queen's University Press. JSTOR j.ctt80fx5. 
  • Gobineau, Arthur de (1993). Michael Wilkshire, ed. A Gentleman In The Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland. Ottawa: Carleton University Press. JSTOR j.ctt1cd0m3n. 
  • Rowbotham, Arnold (1939). "Gobineau and the Aryan Terror". The Sewanee Review. 47 (2): 152–165. JSTOR 27535529. 
  • Wilkshire, Michael (1993), "Introduction: Gobineau and Newfoundland", Gentleman In The Outports: Gobineau and Newfoundland, by Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Michael Wilkshire, ed., Carleton Library Series, McGill-Queen's University Press, JSTOR j.ctt1cd0m3n 

Further reading[edit]

Works in English[edit]

  • 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). Father of Racist Ideology: The Social and Political Thought of Count Gobineau, Weybright & Talley.
  • 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.
  • Fortier, Paul A. (1967). "Gobineau and German Racism," Comparative Literature, Vol. 19, No. 4.
  • 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, April 11.
  • 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). 
  • 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[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]