The author of the following sketches, letters, etc., has been known to us for lo, these many years. We have always found him "a fellow of infinite jest," and one who, "though troubles assailed," always looked upon the bright side of life, leaving its reverse to those who could not behold the silver lining to the darkling clouds of their moral horizon. We could fill a good-sized volume with anecdotes illustrating the humorous in Mr. Burnett's composition, and his keen appreciation of the grotesque and ludicrous—relating how he has, many a time and oft, "set the table in a roar," by his quaint sayings and the peculiar manner in which they were said; but we are "admonished to be brief," four pages only being allotted to "do up" the veritable "Don Alfredus," better known by the familiar appellation "Alf."
Mr. Burnett has been a resident of Cincinnati for the past twenty-seven years, his parents removing thereto from Utica, New York, in 1836. Alf, at the Utica Academy, in his earliest youth, was quite noted as a declaimer; his "youth but gave promise of the man," Mr. B., at the present time, standing without a peer in his peculiar line of declamation and oratory. In 1845, he traveled with Professor De Bonneville, giving his wonderful rendition of "The Maniac," so as to attract the attention of the literati throughout the country.
Perhaps one great reason for Mr. Burnett's adopting his present profession was a remark made by the celebrated tragedian, Edwin Forrest. Mr. B. had been invited to meet Mr. Forrest at the residence of S. S. Smith, Esq. Mr. Burnett gave several readings, which caused Mr. Forrest to make the remark, that "Mr. B. had but to step upon the stage to reach fortune and renown." "Upon this hint" Mr. B. acted, and at once entered upon the duties of his arduous profession. In his readings and recitations he soon discovered that it was imperative, to insure a pleasant entertainment, that humor should be largely mingled with pathos; hence, he introduced a series of droll and comical pieces, in the rendition of which he is acknowledged to have no equal. As a mimic and ventriloquist he stands preeminent, and his entertainment is so varied with pathos, wit, and humor, that an evening's amusement of wonderful versatility is afforded.
Mr. Burnett is a remarkably ready writer—too ready, to pay that care and attention to the "rules," which is considered, and justly so, to be indispensable to a correct writer. To illustrate the rapidity with which he composes, we have but to repeat a story, which a mutual friend relates. He met Alf, one afternoon, about five o'clock, he being announced to deliver an original poem in the evening, of something less than a hundred verses. In the midst of the conversation which ensued, Alf suddenly recollected that he had not written a line thereof, and, making his excuses, declared he must go home and write up the "little affair." In the evening a voluminous poem was forthcoming, Alf, in all probability, having "done it up" in half an hour "by Shrewsbury clock."
Mr. Burnett has contributed various poems to the literature of the country, which have stamped him as being possessed of a more than ordinary share of the divine afflatus. Among them is "The Sexton's Spade," which has gained a world-wide celebrity. The writer has been connected with Mr. Burnett in the publication of two or three papers, which, somehow or other, never won their way into popular favor: either the public had very bad taste, or the "combined forces" had not the ability to please, or the perseverance to continue until success crowned their labors.
In the commencement of the war, Mr. Burnett was on a tour of the State, in the full tide of prosperity. Immediately after Sumter fell, he summoned to him, by telegraph, his traveling agent, together with Mr....