W.M. Hughes, Arthur Desmond, W.A. Holman, and Monte Scott
Highlights of Australian History
—By C. H. BERTIE
"No. 1—When they lived in Bohemia—Hughes, Holman and Desmond.
What did Billy do in 1894? "
PASSING along George-street to-day at the corner of Market-street one may hear, occasionally, muffled sounds arising, from a shaft on a land adjoining the Civil Service Stores. These sounds are the explosions following on blasting for the underground railway.
Thirty-five years ago. i.e., in the year 1894, certain explosions—and we might add, blasting’s— arose from the same site, but in this case, it was not gunpowder that exploded the charge, and the object of the blast was not to dislodge some rock. A mightier force was at work in 1894; the Pen was the gunpowder, and the rock to be blasted was the “Bloated Capitalist!”
In the year named, the Labor Party was in a state of flux. The first party elected had split, and the introduction of the pledge had widened the breach. The colony was on the eve of an election, and some ardent (one uses the adjective advisedly) spirits determined to assist the party and hasten the downfall of the bloated capitalist by starting a paper. On the second floor of Kidman's buildings, which stood on the site, they secured an office, and on Saturday, April 7, 1894, the first number of “The New Order” appeared.
Three bright young men contributed the bulk of the paper, and their names were: W. M. Hughes, W. A. Holman, and Arthur Desmond. To them must be added the artist, Monte Scott, who furnished a cartoon.
I have a file of the paper before me, it contains 21 numbers, and to glance through it is to step back into another world—a world where Sir Henry Parkes, Sir George Dibbs and G. H. Reid, played the leading parts, and the function of the “New Order” was to hurl verbal brickbats at these apostles of capitalism, and the apostates from the Labor Party.
It seems hardly necessary to say that coming from the hands of such experts, the brickbats were aimed with cunning and dexterity. The name of Arthur Desmond may not be familiar to this generation, but in some ways he was even more remarkable than his two associates. Under the name of “Ragnar Redbeard,” he wrote a book called “Might is Right,” which glorifies force. He was an authority on finance, and with a paper called “Hard Kash” (which ultimately was printed in a cave to elude the police), he contributed to the bank smash in 1893. His ending was fitting for such a man—he died on active service in Palestine. (Correction; Arthur Desmond died 23 January 1929 in Chicago.)
In 1913, Mr. Hughes wrote a wholly delightful account of the rise and fall of the “New Order,” for “Copy,” (same article further down) journalists' organ. Of his co-workers he writes: “Desmond was our regular poet. His command of scarifying language was appalling. When anything had to be said that could not be safely said in prose, it was entrusted to Desmond. He would say anything, and find a good rhyme to it, too.
“He was a poet and a most excellent man. He contrived to land the “New Order” in libels during its short sojourn on this journalistic earth, for about £30,000. Death, indeed, when it came, was from this standpoint a happy release. Desmond was our regular poet. Poetry oozed out of him at every pore. He could not help being a poet, any more than he could help cursing the capitalist. He was born that way.
“Our other poet was Mr. W. A. Holman, Premier of N.S.W. He was the occasional poet. When Desmond was away assassinating individual capitalists, or indulging in day-dreams of life in the New Jerusalem Mr. Holman would be turned on. Mr. Holman was not a natural poet. Whereas Desmond could have written poetry sitting on an ant heap in the wilderness, Holman had to have his “atmosphere” and his accessories just right or he couldn't do anything. But when these were right he was wonderful. He wrote poetry straight off on to the typewriter. To see that gifted man sitting on a box whacking out poetry on a hired typewriter (that might at any moment be seized by the myrmidons of capital), was a sight for the gods. As he habitually worked the machine with one finger, his output was necessarily small, but its quality was superb.”
The young and ardent life of the “New Order” was quenched by lack of capital—no, capital is too rich a word to use, its promoters only used that word to belabor it. Privately they may have dreamt of riches, but publicly it was anathema. So we shall say the paper suffered from lack of money. “Nobody had any fixed salary,” writes Mr. Hughes “such a thing would have been inconsistent with the creed of our paper. Nobody on the paper was ever paid. It was a most extraordinary and most disquieting fact, but current coin of the realm—or any other negotiable coin—was rarely ever seen in the office.
”As one consequence of this shyness on the part of the coin of the realm, the “myrmidons of capital” began to hover round in an endeavour to collect their bills for paper, ink, and other essentials. These were kept at bay by divers means. On one occasion bailiffs were on their way to enter into possession; on the floor above the “New Order” was an insurance society, and a hand with the finger outstretched pointed the way from the “New Order” floor to the insurance, company's office. It was the work of a few minutes to take down the insurance sign and affix that of the “New Order.” When the tramp of the bailiffs' feet passed up the stairs, the staff of the “New Order” locked their office and softly stole away.
One naturally asks how these young men lived, and Mr. Hughes tells us that they were almost absolutely dependent upon three sympathisers, “who themselves fought daily a desperate battle for existence on the ground floor of Kidman's buildings.” One was an Italian who kept a wine shop. “He was an anarchist, and his views were really frightful to hear”—a most kindly soul, who really “would not have known a bomb from a banana.” One of the other sympathisers sold smallgoods, and the other fruit, “so that by a process of exhaustion, corned beef and damaged apples fell to our lot.”
There could be but one ending to the battle, and on Saturday, August 25, 1894, the “New Order” succumbed to the attacks of the old order.
Sun (Sydney, NSW,) Sunday 24 November 1929
The Rise and the Fall of the “New Order.”
BY W. M. HUGHES, M.H.R.
The following article was written by the present Prime Minister for “Copy'” in the year 1913. Lo and behold many are the changes that have taken place since he penned the lines:—
I write of events long gone by: of the days before Plancus was Consul, when civilisation was, so to speak, in its swaddling clothes; in short, I write of the soul-stirring period when the Labor Party was marshalling its forces in battle array for its descent upon the Land of political Canaan.
In 1893, or thereabouts, a time when all seemed in a flux and social changes of a great and radical kind seemed imminent, an enterprise at once happy, original, and daring, inspired certain of the elect to immediate action. Put briefly, the idea was to combat and, peradventure, overthrow the hordes of Capitalism, spread enlightenment throughout the Universe, awaken the slumbering masses, substitute for the effete and rotten existing social system a “New Order,” and to do all this by means of a paper.
This glorious conception was taken up with white-hot enthusiasm by some select spirits, one of whom furnished the money; the others, the brilliant intellect necessary to ensure success. In those days things moved apace and almost before one could say knife, on one memorable morning the world awoke to find a New Force in possession of the field and the reptile Capitalistic Press, caught in the very act of exuding its daily slime, was confronted with the soul-stirring spectacle of a Fearless Journal, devoted to the Cause of the People!
The name given to this splendid paper was “The New Order!” There was something in the very name itself so appropriate, so symbolic, so blight, so pregnant with hope that all who beard it deemed the battle for Freedom already half won.
And the staff of the paper disgraced neither the name nor its high and noble purpose. Never was there collected under one roof a finer, more spirited, more brilliant, lot of human beings.
Naturally, the paper was magnificent. I do not insist upon the excellence of its management: Genius has always despised the sordid details of business: and the Managers—there were many of them, and their average term of office was about ten days—were all men of genius. But the literary side was without peer; it shone amidst the flickering lights of our glow-worm contemporaries like a beautiful star. We had the finest editor, the finest black-and-white artist, and the finest all round staff ever known. The editor was a remarkable being—before whom Delane himself would have trembled. He ruled with a rod of iron. His outlook on life was most austere. He was never known to smile. He never went out. He had no recreations and only one shirt. (It would have been a most suspicious circumstance to have more than one shirt! None of us had, except Monty Arnold, our artist, and his excuse was that he was married.)
The editor slept in the office, his noble head pillowed on a pile of returned “New Orders.” He lived, as we all did, the Very Simple Life.
Nobody had any fixed salary: such a thing would have been inconsistent with the creed of our paper. Nobody on the paper was ever paid. It was a most extraordinary and most disquieting fact, but current coin of the realm—or any other negotiable coin—was rarely ever seen in our office. In the early days of the journal this excited little comment, but as the circulation bounded up, and still gold and silver avoided us as though we had the pestilence, a thick gloom settled heavily upon us all. I have no doubt that the whole thing was engineered by the agents of Capitalism, and I want to set down here my mature opinion that to this despicable organised boycott of the Capitalists the final frightful cataclysm was chiefly due. I know that if we had only had money the paper must have proved the greatest success of all time.
Our circulation kept on bounding up—we had a sale of 5000 copies in Queensland alone, for which, to the best of my knowledge and belief, we never received one penny piece—but no money came our way.
The iron entered into our young souls: the joy of morning was quenched, our view of life became unnaturally gloomy. A spirit of hopeless pessimism overspread our fair columns, originally bubbling over with iridescent Hope; where flashes of playful humour and delicate and not unkindly satire had won’t to be, was now nought but savage bitterness and ferocious irony.
It is easy to condemn this, but we were very human, rather young, and very hungry. It was all too frequent an unconscionable time between meals. For us no manna fell from beneficent Heaven, no rich man's crumbs came to assuage our pangs. We were almost absolutely dependent upon three sympathisers, who themselves fought daily a desperate battle for existence on the ground floor of Kidman's Buildings (on the second floor of which we had hung out our shingle).
One of these, an Italian, with a beautiful black beard and a face like a Greek god, kept a wine shop. He was an Anarchist, and his views were really frightful to hear. His creed was as simple as that of a savage. Society, according to him ought to be blown up. Bombs were with him the one remedy for all evils. He was the most kindly-natured soul I ever met, and I am persuaded he would not have known a bomb from a banana, and he would not have hurt a fly.
He could not, understand our idea of salvation by political action. It seemed to him childish. “You getta da bomb,” he used to say, as he shook his beautiful head. “That so moch betta.” Whenever he had it, he gave us wine, and whatever of brilliance and dash and hope the journal had in those days is due to him. God rest his soul!
Of our other benefactors one sold smallgoods and the other fruit, and by the process of exhaustion corned beef and damaged apples fell to our lot. We ate both when we could get them, but, believe me, they make a rotten diet for a man who has to hurl himself against the massed forces of Capitalism!
The lack of money was our curse. The paper's career was hampered almost from the outset from this cause. The myrmidons of Capital began to assail us after about the sixth issue. A base caitiff sought to seize our poor plant, his pretext for this dastardly attempt was that our bill for paper was overdue! Hard on his heels came another—cackling about ink supplied, and not paid for. Lord! Lord! How long, how long, shall the poor be thus oppressed?
Providentially, these oppressors of the poor were foiled. Word of their coming being given, a council of war was called on the spot, and a plan of campaign agreed upon. On the floor above us the “North British (or some other) Insurance Company” carried on business. A sign (with a detached hand, with outstretched finger pointing upwards) on our landing directed visitors upstairs. It was but the work of a moment to take the Fire Insurance Company's sign down and place our own beautiful striking shingle (done on tin by a sympathiser) in its place.
When the bailiffs came all was ready. They paused on our landing. All work was suspended the while. The intense silence would have surely pleased even Mr. Speaker Johnson, but the sign on the door facing them, “Fire Insurance Coy,” together with a neat notice, “Back at 2 o'clock,” made out an impeccable alibi. When they were safely on the floor above the staff cautiously, but with grea1 swiftness, stole out, locked the door, and melted away. By such simple and inoffensive expedients did the Organ of the People continue to prolong the unequal contest. But the end came at length, and the day dawned on which the fair white body of the “New Order” lay crushed and bleeding, under the Car of Juggernaut. In the first round of | the “Battle of Armageddon,” Might had triumphed over Right, the Old Order had battered the “New Order” into insensibility.
It was very sad. The editor never quite recovered from the shock, and even new edits a highly respectable and law-abiding journal. Some of the staff, driven to despair, stood for Parliament and were returned. Our principal poet, a gentleman named Desmond, having cursed the Continent in comprehensive and blood-curdling terms, went to America. No doubt he settled in Mexico or some other of those cheerful and volcanic parts, where revolution is the only wear. The recently published portrait of President Huerta is not at all unlike my distinguished colleague. The expression is a trifle more peaceful than was that of Desmond in his prime, but the chastening effect of 20 years' revolutionising would no doubt more than account for this. Desmond was our regular poet. His command of scarifying language was appalling. When anything had to be said that could not be safely said in prose, it was entrusted to Desmond. He would say anything, and find a good rhyme for it too.
He was an excellent poet and a most excellent man. He contrived to land the “New Order” in libels during its short sojourn on this journalistic earth for about £30,000! Death indeed, when it came, was from this standpoint, a happy release, Desmond was our regular poet. Poetry oozed out of him at every pore. He could not help being a poet, any more than he could help cursing the Capitalist. He was born that way.
Our other poet was Mr. W. A. Holman, Premier of N.S.W. He was the occasional poet. When Desmond was away assassinating individual capitalists, or indulging in day dreams of life in the New Jerusalem, Mr. Holman would he turned on. Mr. Holman was not a natural poet. Whereas Desmond could have written poetry sitting on an ant heap in the wilderness, Holman had to have his “atmosphere” and his accessories just right, or he couldn't do anything. But when these were right, he was wonderful! He wrote poetry straight off on to the typewriter. To see that gifted man sitting on a box whacking out poetry on a hired type-writer (that might at any moment be seized by the myrmidons of Capital) was a sight for the gods! As he habitually worked the machine with one finger, his output was necessarily small, but its quality was superb!
Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, Friday 7 May, 1920