Everyone who has read Wm. D. Howells' "Hazard of New Fortunes" will recall the flat-hunting experience of the couple from Boston when they came to New York to launch a new journalistic venture, and their horror of one furnished flat in particular. This flat was so filled with bric-a-brac, spinning-wheels and vases that Mr. March, the man in the case, promptly dubbed it the " gimcrack-ery," and he continued to call it by this name until (and here is a moral) he rented it. Of course to be consistent he packed a lot of the "gim-cracks " in barrels and stored them away somewhere out of sight, but the fact remains that the "gimcrackery " must have seemed the most hom<-like flat he visited.
That is the primal object of bric-a-brac. It makes the home our home. These small, or even large, decorative accessories are in a way the outgrowth of the lares and penates of the old Romans. In fact, some of the very clay images that the old Romans used as their household gods, now grace the cabinets and mantels of our own homes. But art objects have another use. They are the final touch, the bit of addition that makes or unmakes all the rest.
We are, happily, past the days of decorative rolling-pins and metamorphosed banjos, and all that sort of ugliness, but there is quite as much room for improvement as there ever was. This is evinced by the great lot of trash that is sold every year by the "fake auction" Japanese stores alone. Bric-a-brac should be purchased not because it is cheap and not because it is expensive, but because it completes a decorative whole, or gives a decided pleasure in itself. It need not be useful in the usual sense,- for to give pleasure to the eye is certainly a high usefulness, - but it should not be useless, unmeaning or obtrusive.