The Xenien, epigrams in the form of a classical distich that concluded Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1797, were a collection of satirical, biting, sometimes overtly cruel epigrams composed by Schiller and Goethe against literary enemies in response to what they considered the uncomprehending and hostile reaction to Schiller’s periodical Die Horen during 1795.
A commentary was required because many of the epigrams were addressed to or were about persons not immediately identifiable, a feature that did, of course, make for considerable suspense and second-guessing — including on Caroline’s part, who in several letters deftly identifies many of the targets.
It is difficult to imagine the excitement and indignation (accompanied, moreover, by numerous published responses) these epigrams provoked, epigrams leaving scholars guessing into the late nineteenth century and even beyond concerning their intended targets
Caroline had cleverly secured page proofs and was sending individual epigrams out to people before the collection was actually published. Whereas Schiller was vexed, Goethe responded, “All hail to our lady-friend that she copies and distributes our poems, and that she takes more thought of our proof-sheets than we do ourselves! Such faith, verily, was rarely met with in Israel!”
The satirical illustration here depicts a procession of burlesque figures trying unsuccessfully to enter the town gates of Jena. The Harlequin figure at the front carries a banner announcing the gang of Schiller and Goethe following behind, with Goethe and Schiller themselves at center (Goethe holding the Thierkreis banner [animal kingdom] and Schiller the bottle and whip) while their followers try to “overturn” the column representing “Propriety, Morality, Justice.”
(Illustration from Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1895], following p. 288.)