26               "WILLIAM    MORRIS
flat ugliness of the current article," the owner and his
group of artist-friends set themselves to the designin of
the house furnishings and utensils; from the ta les,
cupboards and settles down to the fire-dogs, candlesticks
and table-glass.
                          The success attendant upon
these efforts was recognized at its practical and possible
value; and the idea of the firm, as it would now appear,
occurred simultaneously to a number of the prospective
members; the two old7est and best-known artists of the
group, Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, having the
  rgest share Mi establishing the enterprise; while it must
be acknowledged that the permanence of the work0and
influence was due alone to the patience, energy, enthusiasm
and originality of William Morris.
                          The firm was called into exist-
ence in April, 1861., and an assessment was made of one
pound sterling per share; one share being held by each
member. Tfhis scanty sum and an unsecured loan Of
one hundred pounds from Mrs. Morris, mother of the
artist, furnished the trading capital for the first year.
                         Theiinitial step of the new
association was to make its existence known to the
public, by means of a circular letter which, by reason of
its style and contents, awakened much comment,
antagonism and even ridicule.
                         At this period, the practice of
the decorative arts was understood to be a superficial
accomplishment suited to affluent young ladies; and the
current opinion of the tradesman was such that no person
of culture and position would lightly subject himself to
the reproach of having sold his birthright. Indeed, the
prejudice excited by the circular can scarcely be appreci-
ated at the present time, Nor did the bitter opposition
come from one quarter alone. The tradesmen themselves
resented the intrusion into their affairs of a body of men
whose training had not been commercial, and whose