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THERE is no greater evil in life than that
of labouring under a bad reputation. No
description of bipedfeathered or smooth,
naked or hairyhas suffered more in this
way than the Owl, and, for the greater part,
most unjustly. Common Fame has invariably
associated the owl with melancholy and
misfortune, in almost all countries except in
ancient Greecewhere owls were honoured and
promoted to a dignified copartnership with
the goddess of wisdom. Its very name has
become a byeword, its appearance a signal
for unseemly mirth or for unconcealed aversion;
and all this without the slightest reason. In
the simple form of appellation alone, nations,
calling themselves civilised, have endeavoured
to affix words of opprobrium on the Owl.
The learnedin whose erudite bosoms dwell
no touch of pityadopted or invented terms,
such as Bubo, Strix, Scops (words conveying
the idea of something noisy or unpleasant), as
if they desired to create a prejudice by the mere
mention of the unhappy bird. Nor have the
unlearned been much behind them;  for the
nomenclature of the owl is scarcely less insulting
amongst the common people in every part of
Europe. Our polite French ally makes up his
mouth, and says Hibou,with a strong and spiteful
accentuation of the last syllable, which is
the obnoxious root of the name in nearly all
languages; or he speaks through his nose, as
none but a Frenchman can speak, and
stigmatises the poor thing as a Chat-Huant, or
hooting-cat,  a designation at once illogical
and illiberal. The soft-voiced Italian chokes
with the malicious epithet Gufo; the grave
Spaniard, taking the cigarito from his lips,
sonorously exclaims Buho; the Lower
Austrian imitates the Castilian as well as he
can, and cries Buhu; while the German, with
wondering eyes and unmeaning face, delivers
himself of Eule (which he pronounces very like
Oily), as if he had hit upon something
superlatively characteristic and transcendental.
Vulgarity marks the treatment which the
Owl experiences in England. Madge-howlet
is, perhaps, the least ungentlemanlike of the
names we give; but a number of offensive
adjectives are freely applied to designate a
bird, quite as estimable as many that enjoy a
much better character. ln the Highlands
of Scotland, the Owl is served out, so to
speak, in barbarous Celtic as a Corrasgreachag,
or a Cailleach-oidhche,—words
which I defy the least harmonious bird of
night itself to pronounce; and the Welch leave
you to choose between Dylluan Wen and
Aderyn-y-Corph, both of which, you may
be sure, mean something disagreeable. The
Red Indians of North America, who know
no better, call their Owl Cobadecootch,
and Wapohoo; and the native Australians,
who ought to be the last people to sneer at
others, derisively say Buck-buck when they
speak of the bird of wisdom. The Japanese
have a canine notion of our friendperhaps
they believe them to be feathered dogsand
whisper Howo-waiwo, when he sails across
their path. The Arabs, with their deep
guttural voices, say Khufj; but what word
the Persians use, I decline to mention. This
enumeration might be greatly extended.
Enough, probably, has been instanced to show
that the Owl is not in the slightest degree
indebted to mankind for the ordinary
politeness that is due to every stranger.

Let me see now what is said respecting
his nature and habits. Pliny, who was
always ready to fall into any absurdity, is
amongst the first who tried to fasten upon
him a dismal and lugubrious character. "The
scritch-owle," he says (I follow the
translation of Philemon Holland), "betokeneth
alwais some heavie newes, and is most
execrable and accursed and unsemely in the
presages of publick affaires. He keepeth
ever in deserts" (which is not true), "and
loveth not onely such unpeopled places, but
also that are horrible and hard of accesse.
In summer he is the verie monster of the
night, neither crying nor singing out cleere,
but uttering a certain heavie grone of dolefull
moning. And therefore" (most logical
Pliny!) "if he be seene to flie either within
citties, or otherwise abroad in any place, it
is not for good, but prognosticateth some
fearfull misfortune.  Howbeit, I myself know
that he hath sitten upon many houses of
privat men, and yet no deadly accident
followed thereupon."   Obliged, then, to give
him a better character than he intended,
Pliny adds, with a sneer: "He never flieth
directly at ease, as he would himselfe" (how
does he know that?), "but evermore sidelong