Ragnar Redbeard in Ross's Monthly

A biographical article including famous verses and a photograph of Arthur Desmond "Ragnar Redbeard."

Ragnar Redbeard in Ross's Monthly

For March-April 1920

Ragnar Redbeard in Ross's Monthly for March-April 1920. In this biographical article by Geo. G. Reeve, one of Arthur Desmond "Ragnar Redbeards" first biographers, we get to know Ragnar Redbeard a little more. This article includes the first ever printed photograph of Arthur Desmond "Ragnar Redbeard."

Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Militarist, Anti-Clerical.


Of Protest, Personality and Progress






“Ragnar Redbeard.”


A Thousand Books of Fame

“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.”

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 two years after moving “the undying hostility” resolution at the 1893 Political Labour Conference in Sydney, taking with him the typewritten MSS of “Might is Right,” as no publisher could be found hereabouts 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 a 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

Photo of Ragnar Redbeard (Arthur Desmond)

Ragnar Redbeard (Arthur Desmond) without the beard. Circa 1890-1894.

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, untrammelled, 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. 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. Desmond subsequently had a large tract of 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 business men. This little journal, “Hard Cash,” had as a 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. a copy. “Hard Cash” later became the organ of the Active Service Brigade, also connected the late William McNamara, secretary of the first Socialist organisation formed in Australia; the late John A. Andrews, afterwards of “The Tocsin,” Melbourne; John Dwyer, happily “still on deck”; Captain Douglass, Peter Emslie, and many another. “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 offences—libelling the Minister, and for selling the copies from the newsagencies they conducted. Thomas Routley (of the Board of Trade, New South Wales), William McNamara and S. A. Rosa (of “Truth” newspaper, Sydney) were then conducting newsagencies. They all received sentence. Later they were similarly charged of the little Sydney sheet called “Justice,” and were awarded and served six months’ sentences. Much of interest will be in the 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,” “Justice,” and “The Socialist,” Sydney (the latter founded by Harry E. Holland and Tom Batho—the latter now, alas! After years of self-sacrifice as a teacher of revolutionary “Socialism,” is not getting along too well through approaching blindness).

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, Tom Batho, 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.” 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 Manila 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.

The publishing house in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. America that circulates “The Literary Index” makes the claim that “Redbeard’s” teachings were mainly responsible for the great European war, as it states that the ex-Emperor William of Germany, likewise Roosevelt, D’Annunzio and, lastly, W. M. Hughes, had all read the typewritten manuscript and absorbed the strenuousness and ruthlessness displayed by those individuals and of others of lesser notoriety.

Ross’s Monthly, 17 April, 1920