Gobineau, Arthur de

AUTHOR, DIPLOMAT, HISTORIAN, RACIAL THEORIST (FRANCE)
BORN 14 Jul 1816, Ville-d'Avray, Hauts-de-Seine - DIED 13 Oct 1882, Torino, Piemonte
BIRTH NAME Gobineau, Joseph Arthur de
GRAVE LOCATION Torino, Piemonte: Cimitero Monumentale, Corso Novara (Ampliazione 1 Arcata, loculo (B 50 on map))

Arthur de Gobineau came from an aristocratic family. His father was Louis de Gobineau (1784-1858) and his mother Anne Louise Magdeleine de Gercy was the daughter of a tax collector. His father was a convinced royalist and he was arrested because of his support for the Bourbons. He was freed in 1814 when Napoleon was defeated. During the 100 Days the family fled France. In 1816 Louis became a captain in the Royal Guard of Louis XVIII.

During his teens Arthur lived in Inzilgen with his mother and her lover. In his youth he was fascinated by the Middle Ages and the Orient. He studied at the Collège de Bironne in Switzerland. After he failed the entrance exams to St. Cyr military school in 1835 he went to Paris to become a writer. He wrote fiction for several magazines and as an opponent of the July Monarchy of 1830 he also wrote for reactionary publications. He struggled financially until in 1841 his article about Count Ioannis Kapodistrias put his name on the map. He wrote on international politics and he was pessimistic or negative about most countries including the USA. In 1846 he married Clémence Gabrielle Monnerot who was pregnant at the time by their mutual friend Pierre de Serre who had left her. They had two daughters.

The Revolution of 1848 shocked him and he at first he didn't like it when Louis Napoleon became president. But he considered him the best man to preserve order and he accepted the position of chef de cabinet when his friend Tocqueville became Foreign Minister. In 1848 he expressed racial theories for the first time in his poem "Manfredine". From 1849 to 1854 he was First Secretary for France in Bern and in 1854 he was transferred to Frankfurt am Main. His "Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines" was published in 1855. He wrote that the Aryans had founded the ten great civilizations of the world and he pointed at the Germanic people as the Aryans in Europe. Critics reacted mostly negative at the time and the 'Essai' had little impact.

In 1855 he was transferred to Tehran where he soon became chargé d'affaires. In 1858 Foreign Minister Walewski wanted to send him to Bejing but Gobineau refused. He was sent to Newfoundland instead. He hated his time there. In 1861 he was allowed to return to Tehran. In 1865 he published "Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale". After he published two books on Ancient Persia scholars turned against him, stating that he didn't understand what he was writing about.

In 1864 he became the French minister to Greece. He liked Athens and he travelled with Ernest Renan. In Athens the sisters Zoé and Marika Dragoumis became his mistresses and Zoé corresponded with him for the rest of his life. In 1868 Gustave Flourens had joined the Cretean uprising and travalled to Athens for support. Napoleon III ordered Gobineau to silence him. He had him arrested and shackled and immediately shipped him back to Marseilles. Victor Hugo condemned Gobineau for it in an article and under pressure of public opinion he was recalled to Paris.

In 1869 he became French minister to Brazil. He experienced the carnival in Rio de Janeiro and he disliked it strongly. He became close friends with Emperor Pedro II, but his visible comtempt for the country and its people made him unpopular and in 1870 he was recalled to France. When France was defeated by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War he claimed it as evidence for his racial theories, although he had previously expected that France would quickly win the war. In 1872 he was appointed French minister to Sweden and he considered the Swedes to be the purest branch of the Germanic race. In 1874 he met Prince Philip von Eulenburg and they became close friends. He considered Eulenburg to be one of the few who understood his racial theories.

In 1876 he left his post in Stockholm without permission to meet his friend the emperor Pedro II of Brazil during his European visit. He accompanied Pedro to Russia, Turkey and Greece. Because of it, Louis Descazes forced him to resign in 1877. He settled in Rome in October 1877 intending to become a professional sculptor. He had first met Richard Wagner in Rome in November 1876 and in 1880 again in Vienna. In 1881 and 1882 he visited Wagner in Bayreuth. Wagner was impressed by Gobineau's 'Essaí' but there is no evidence that Gobineau's work influenced his last opera "Parsifal". Wagner didn't share Gobineau's pessimism about the Aryans and expected that they would regenerate after rejecting the corrupting influence of the Jews.

After a visit to Madame de la Tour’s Château de Chaméane in Auverne in 1882 he travelled back to Italy and he died in Turin.

Related persons
• influenced Chamberlain, Houston Stewart
• was a friend of Prokesch von Osten, Anton, Graf von
• was a friend of Wagner, Richard

Events
11/5/1881Richard Wagner receives Arthur Gobineau in Bayreuth [Wagner, Richard]

Images

The grave of Joseph de Gobineau at the Cimitero Monumentale, Turin.
Picture by Androom (28 Feb 2014)

 

The grave of Joseph de Gobineau at the Cimitero Monumentale, Turin.
Picture by Androom (28 Feb 2014)

 

Sources
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Arthur de Gobineau - Wikipedia
GOBINEAU, Joseph Arthur de – Encyclopaedia Iranica


Goddard, Paulette

Published: 27 Oct 2021
Last update: 30 Mar 2022