Geo G. Reeve on Ragnar Redbeard

ARTHUR DESMOND, for that, was the real name of “Ragnar Redbeard.” —George G. Reeve.

Geo G. Reeve on Ragnar Redbeard.

In this interesting two-part article "Geo G. Reeve on Ragnar Redbeard," we get to know the character Ragnar Redbeard, aka Arthur Desmond a little better. Geo G. Reeve brings some light to the mystique surrounding Mr. Desmond.

This article was first published in Ross's Monthly in 1921. Mr. George G. Reeve was a well known historian, genealogist, and authority on Hawkesbury history. He was also a personal friend of Australia's premier poet, the late Henry Lawson.

Part one.

'The Strong must ever rule the Weak is

grim Primordial Law —

On earth's broad racial threshing floor, the

meek are beaten straw;

Then ride to Power o'er foeman's neck, let

nothing bar your way —

If you are fit you'll rule and reign is the

Logic of To-day.'

A Thousand Books of Fame

ARTHUR DESMOND, for that, was the real name of “Ragnar Redbeard” was a native of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, where, he was born about the year 1842, of Irish ancestry.

He died during the year 1918 in Palestine, while on service with General Allenby's troops. Desmond, during the 'nineties', was a well-known writer and journalist in Australia, and taken all round was one of the most remarkable men the Southern Hemisphere ever produced, being the author of one of the most famous books ever written, 'Might is Right,' from which the foreword verses are quoted.

Desmond left Australia after moving 'the undying hostility' resolution at the 1893 Political Labor Conference in Sydney, taking with him the typewritten MSS. Of 'Might is Right,' as no publisher hereabouts could be found to take the risk of printing it, so vitriolic and vehement therein was his denunciation of women, and the glorification of the doctrine of Force, going much further than his teachers Nietzsche and Stirner.

'Might is Right' contains, in all, some seven chapters, in two parts, divided into the following form:

—Introduction: The Living forces of Evil Found in the Moral Ideas of To-day— Iconoclastic; Christian Ethics Impeached, Jesus the True Prince of Evil (the Mephistopheles of the World, the King of Slaves)—The Spinning of the Web; the Ideal Animal of Destructive Warrior, not a Crucified Carpenter (Moral principles are slave regulations)—The Chief End of Manhood; Material success.

Book 2 — The Philosophy of Power and the Logic of To-day—Love and Women and War —Female Animals Love the Best Fighting Males—Sexual Selection and the Necessity of Unmerciful Conflict—History, Biology and Contemporary Events—All Unite in Demonstrating that Might is Right.

'In this book and wilderness of Steel and Stone I raised up my voice that you may hear.

'To the East and West I beckon, to the North and South I show a sign.

'Proclaiming Death to the Weakling, Wealth to the Strong.'

A literary reincarnation of Wodin.

'I break away from all conventions. Alone, untrammeled, I raise up my voice in stern invasion.

'The Standard of the Strong. No hoary falsehood shall be a truth to me. No cult, no dogma shall encramp my pen.

'Man is under no Obligation to obey anything or anybody.'

Of this remarkable man not much is known since he left these shores, other than that a periodical was conducted by him in London under the title of 'Redbeard's Review,' which ran for about four years.

A Remarkable man.

After leaving Great Britain he conducted 'The Eagle and The Serpent,' and 'The Lion's Paw,' as the necessary adjuncts to a wholesale publishing house in Chicago. U.S.A., the same being used as advertising mediums for the books sold by the firm.

The House of Gowrie and Thurland & Thurland: The Devil's Book Agents.

Including works from The Lion's Paw, Might is Right and much more.


Desmond subsequently had a great tract for land (a ranch), which was stocked with deer, moose and venison-giving animals in the vicinity of the large copper district of Kalispell, Montana, U.S... America.

A couple of freelance Australian journalists who knew him in Sydney, Desmond entertained right royally for a few weeks, going out on hunting and shooting parties. To many another person seeking his acquaintance Desmond held aloof, and to a great extent surrounded himself—behind the veil' as it were—by a 'mystery halo' and a sacrosanctness hard to penetrate.

Desmond—Redbeard was an all-round man in the business sense of the term, as is proved by reference to copies of 'Hard Cash,' a journal of finance and politics, published in Sydney in the early nineties. Desmond was clever as an accountant, and his articles on 'How Money Rules the World' were well watched by businessmen.

Desmond-Redbeard a businessman

This little journal, 'Hard Cash,' had as sub-title 'The Standard Bearer,' and was printed during 1893-1894, and came out each week for forty Issues or so. Up to. No. 23 was privately circulated, and the price was 6d. Per copy. 'Hard Cash' later became the organ of the Active Service Brigade.

'Hard Cash' was printed at a secret press located in a cave near West's Bush at Paddington, and during the latter part of its existence the then Minister for Justice, New South Wales (Slattery) had the myrmidons of the law eagerly but vainly trying to find Desmond, as it was well known that he was the editor.

However, some of the prominent men of to-day stood trial in connection with the paper, for they were charged with two offenses—libeling the Minister, and for selling the copies from the news agencies they conducted. Much of interest will be a lot of those who may have the facilities to look through the files at the Mitchell Library of 'The Bulletin,' 'The New Order,' 'Hard Cash,' and 'Justice.'

Looking through the files one would there see the vast amount of prose and verse contributed to literature during Desmond's stay in Sydney. William Morris Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia), William A. Holman (Premier of New South Wales), Arthur Yewen, and Desmond, not to forget Monte Scott (the artist) and many others,—were all associated on 'The New Order,'' and W. M. Hughes, in an article in 'Copy,'' Sydney, 1912, refers to Desmond as the 'Poet of Revolution.'

Read Highlights of Australian History

Read The Rise and the Fall of the “New Order.”

From Redbeard's Review

Here is a fraction illustrating the gist and style of Desmond's philosophy. It is taken from 'Redbeard's Review,' London, 1896:—

'Some slay with law and some with sword,

Some have no battle plan;

Some stab with venom's subtle word,

Each does what best he can.

And each man gets what he can win —

Great wealth, great love, or fame;

The conqueror gets his just reward,

The conquered gets his shame.

The weak ones wear a crown of thorns,

Or bleat in living hell;

The strong man crowns himself with gold,

And all the world is well.

And each man gains what others lose,

No use to reason why;

Each plants his heel on fallen foes,

By Love, or Law, or Lie.

The prelude to 'Might is Right' contains 'The Logic of To-day,' One verse:

Might was Right when Gideon led

The chosen tribes of old,

And it was right when Titus burnt

Their Temple roofed with gold;

And Might was Right from Bunker's Hill

To far Manilla Bay.

By land, and flood it's writ in blood—

The Gospel of To-day.

Desmond was also a contributor to 'Reynold's Newspaper,' London. The verses entitled 'The Leader of the Future' being printed in an issue of the year 1889—a typical poem, as it there praises to the highest Desmond's conception of the super-man.

BY GEO. G. REEVE-Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 26 November 1926.

Geo G. Reeve on Ragnar Redbeard.

In the second part of the article Geo G. Reeve on Ragnar Redbeard you get Covington Hall, Life is Combat, The Leader of the Future, Barr of the Western Chain, and The Song of Te Kooti.

Part two.

WHEN Redbeard, "the old pagan," left these shores, "a part of all that he had met," and like Ulysses, "forever, roaming with a hungry heart," "much had he seen and known."

Desmond's experiences of High Finance, his fullness of knowledge of intrigues in the political Labor Movement, and of the scheming of ambitious budding politicians, with his acquired reputation as a versifier and journalistic writer of standing peculiarly fitted him to write with the shafts of derision and iconoclasm his famous work "Might is Right."

Desmond's experiences of High Finance, his fullness of knowledge of intrigues in the political Labor Movement, and of the scheming of ambitious budding politicians, with his acquired reputation as a versifier and journalistic writer of standing peculiarly fitted him to write with the shafts of derision and iconoclasm his famous work "Might is Right."

We find Redbeard in the late nineties of the last century in Edinburgh, Nth. Britain, as a speaker in, the squares and lecture halls, where his novel notions and unique philosophy raised the ire of many Marxians, causing quite a stir in their circle.

Desmond hurt the dignity of many of the "charmed circle" of whom tradition said they carried "Marx's shadow around in a glass tube," or at least wore his picture in a gold medallion.

Desmond treated these individuals mercilessly. They wrote letters of protest in "Justice," London, and in the "Clarion" against, Redbeard's "baneful ideas," and referred to him as the Anti-Christ.

After leaving Britain, the author of "Might is Right" traveled extensively. We can locate him at Harbin, Manchuria, at the time of the Russo-Japanese War. He then was a special correspondent for a New York, daily. Later he was in Cape Town and in the Transvaal, South Africa; again, in Montreal, Canada, and the Western provinces.

After leaving Britain, the author of "Might is Right" traveled extensively. We can locate him at Harbin, Manchuria, at the time of the Russo-Japanese War. He then was a special correspondent for a New York, daily. Later he was in Cape Town and in the Transvaal, South Africa; again, in Montreal, Canada, and the Western provinces.

In most, of the English-speaking countries in which he travelled he printed issues of his iconoclastic journals. Copies of these and typed manuscripts were received periodically by former associates of Desmond, in Sydney, with set instructions to make a further twelve copies and post to inquiring minds eager for knowledge. One such leaflet, I remember well. It was signed "Catiline," and gloried in the use of Fire as a Force for Purification of the World.


It is easy to understand with what veneration the book “Might is Right” is held as a "message to men" by members of the aggregation known as the Industrial Workers of the World, and "Direct Actionists" generally.

One man whom the writer knows—a Russian Pole by birth—had the book bound in Morocco leather, with the words "Holy Bible" inscribed thereon, saying that he intended to go back to his native land. The book would thus pass the officials when looking up his passport.

An American friend of the writer, residing at Stockton, California, declares most positively that "Redbeard" "was shot up against a wall" during the first Madero revolution in Mexico. He also mentions the opinion that he was Ambrose Bierce, the one-time famous editor of the "Cosmopolitan," and probably the greatest short story writer the world has ever produced, Guy De Maupassantand "O. Henry" not accepted.

Harrington claims that Bierce and Desmond were one and the same individual. Whether that is so or not, certain, it is that Bierce was in Mexico at that time, and since January 1914, Bierce has not been seen or heard of.

As the years deepen "Redbeard" becomes more and more a "Man of Mystery." Moreover, W. M. Hughes slyly insinuates a connection between the published portraits of General Huerta of Mexico (the former President) and Desmond—Redbeard. W. M. Hughes states there was a great resemblance (see "Copy," Sydney, December 1912).

Be that as it may, Redbeard lived in Sydney over six years, and was there associated with Henry Lawson, the Australian poet, and with John Dwyer, of Sydney (as a youth a member of the Workingmen's International Association, who knew Michel Bakunin and Marx well while they were in the flesh), and all those, on the "New notably Alfred G. Yewen, who started the Hornsby Communal Settlement, made famous by the description given of it by A. G. Stephens, the Australian litterateur.

This "Socialism in Our Time," when Capitalism's derelicts were compelled to listen to the infliction of a chapter from Marx's "Capital" three times daily (thus helping to expropriate privilege), as an experiment was a disastrous failure.

Redbeard's writings have acquired a cosmopolitan standing. Covington Hall, the poet of New Orleans, Louisiana, has paraphrased "The Logic of To-Day," with verses of adaptation to American conditions in his "Might is Right."

The "savage old pagan's" philosophy has permeated the thoughts of otherwise "logical reasoners" until they became obsessed and fell down and worshipped Redbeard's ideas. "Much greater Saviors must arise before the workers find their way to Freedom."

It is said that one firm in Chicago receives at least four to five letters daily enquiring about Redbeard. One can understand the reason after the following by Redbeard, in one of his Reviews. Listen to this:


By Ragnar Redbeard

'Be venturesome. Straighten yourself; up and face the hosts of wickedness. Be not tame and peaceful under Rapine. Toss that load of awe' from .off your soul. Don't be in everlasting terror of what others think, or say, or do. Who are they that they should intimidate you? Go, seek out your enemies and give them battle.

'And put not your home in governments, nor your neck in the yoke of Jesus. (Beware of Jew gods and Jew books and Jew Saviors).

'Go forth and do REAL things and dream not your life away. Do the valiant things, that NEED TO BE DONE, the glorious things, the joyful things, and' do them all in your own good way.

'Take no man's command and be guided not by the opinions of your neighbors. Swing your own battle-axe and think your own thinks. Lean not upon others.

'Dare all things and learn, to be alive.

'Thus, and thus only, shalt thou not be conquered. Thus you shall live and not perish.

'The world was opened to you when you were born. Nothing is barred from' you—nothing whatsoever. Life is war, remember, and crown is for him who takes it and puts it on.

'Step swiftly, therefore, think boldly, ride gallantly, and let no man bar your way.

'Don't be over-prudent; and don't calculate too much in advance. Be not apprehensive. That is fatal. Take chances. Fling up the dice of Fate and gamble with the gods. The fearless player is ever their delight. He is winner who has no fear.

'If other men slam the gates of evolution across your path, don't hesitate for a moment and don't retreat, or stand still or turn aside.

'Ride on! Ride gallantly! Leap every obstruction or smash it to splinters.

'Ride on, I say, ride on! Ride as a knight would ride. —And the smiles of the beautiful ones and the blessings of the gods—the gods of power and glory and gold—shall be upon you and upon your posterity, for a thousand generations”

The Leader of the Future.

By Ragnar Redbeard

'The Leader of the Future,' is a set of verses 'built off' and with a flavor of James Whitcomb Riley's 'The Poet of, the Future,' printed in the 'Century -. Magazine,' New York, January 1889. Desmond's first, second and last verses:

'Oh, the Leader, of the Future, shall he

come to us as comes

The chief of conquering cohorts 'mid the

roll of battle drums?

Will he come as came the victors in Olympian days of old?

Will he come in princely raiment, with a

coronet of gold,

A crown of gleaming gold,

A crown of gleaming gold,

Will he come in regal raiment, with a crown,

of gleaming gold

'No his hand will hold no sceptre, and his

brow shall not be crowned,

And no robe of Tyrian purple shall enfold

his loins around;

His throne shall be the hearts of men, his

tongue shall utter words

To stir the listening myriads like, reverberating


Like reverberating chords,

Like reverberating chords,

That will thrill the hearts of myriads like

reverberating chords.

'His nation shall be nations and Truth his

sword will be—

To cleave the mail of mighty ones and set

their captives free;

But he will come in lowly guise, with neither trump nor drum;

So let us work and hope for him—

Our King that is to come,

Our Bang that is to come,

Then let us prepare the way for him—

The King that is to come.*

* 'He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy and shall break in pieces the oppressor.'—

Psalms Ixxii., ver. 4.

Barr of the Western Chain.

By Ragnar Redbeard

'Barr of the Western Chain,’ verses by Desmond, which appeared in the 'Weekly Press,' Christchurch, N.Z, December 1892, are exceptionally good. One notices the influence of Bret Harte:—

'Over the northern pass he rode,

Barr of the Western Chain,

From where the stunted spear-grass grows

From where the liquid lava glows,

From where the sulphury river flows

Across the pumice plain.

'By dawn he'd saddled and broke his fast,

And' opened the first slip-rail;

Then through the scrub and forest vast

Stumps and' mile-pegs galloped past,

As all day long in the bitter blast

He rode thro' sleet and hail.

'He rode to bring her, his peerless bride,

A bride of the Western Chain.

She lived far down on the other side,

Where the river valley opens wide,

Where ”Donnelly's Folly” winds beside

A creek on the Pine-tree Plain.

'He came, to the river that bounds the block,

He looked on its yellow tide,

With her name, on his lips he met its shock;

But its raging billows road and mock,

They plunge him over, the ford-mark rock,

And he never reached her side.

'In her father´s home on the Western Track

Her' burning tear-drops rain,

But she’ll never more hear the collie dog's bark

That welcomes the cantering roan in the dark

Crossing the bridge of the boundary mark

With Barr of the Western Chain.'

The Song of Te Kooti.

By Ragnar Redbeard

'The Song of Te Kooti,' which first appeared in the 'Bulletin,' Sydney, later in 'The Golden Shanty' (1890 ed.), glories in the fervor and savage lootings of the patriotic and far-seeing Maori warrior. Some of the verses swing like this. It is too long to here quote in full:—

'They falsely accused him—no trial had he

They carried him off to an isle in the sea;

But his prison was broken, once more he was free—

Exult for Te Kooti, Yo-hoo!

'We won't sell the land—'tis the gift of the Lord—

Except it be bought with a blood-drinking sword;

But all men are welcome to share in it´s hoard—

Exult for Te Kooti, Yo-hoo!

'Exult for Te Kooti, Te Kooti, the bold,

So sage in the council, so famous of old,

Whose war cry's our motto—'tis Hold the Land! Hold!

Exult for Te Kooti, Yo-hoo!

Covington Hall specially wrote to me for the verses.

There are a large number of fugitive verses in the Australian Radical papers of the period of Redbeard's sojourn in Australia, which may be collected and issued later with a biography of this remarkable man.

Mr. J.F. Archibald wrote a supplementary portion to one the writer submitted for 'Smith's Weekly,' but owing to his untimely death' it has not yet been printed.

The influence of 'Redbeardism' is ever-present, and must be spoken of as a recurrent idea from time to time in journalism, as even of late, 'Albatross,' a 'Bulletin' writer, has imbued the ideas in a set of verses, one of which goes something like this:—

'And this is a lesson the Gods taught free,

nor candle, nor book, nor bell

Could drive it out of the heart of me: Hate

ye, your 'enemy well.'

For brotherly love is a transient thing that

melts like snow on the ground,

While, the old beast Nature will snarl and

spring as long as the world goes round.'

"Ragnar Redbeard" By GEO. G. REEVE-Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 10 December, 1926.