S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Claude Louis, Duc de Villars, a French general; born 1653; served in Flanders; employed in diplomatic missions at Vienna and Munich; made several campaigns on the Rhine; Marshal of France, 1702; subdued the Protestants of the Cevennes, 1704; lost the battle of Malplaquet, 1709; died at Turin, 1734.]
The words, I pray God to deliver me from my friends: I will defend myself from my enemies, were used by Voltaire of his visitors at Ferney, and are given by Duvernet (Vie de Voltaire, 1798). The French Ana, however, attribute them to Marshal Villars, on taking leave of Louis XIV. at the beginning of a new campaign, when he said, Sire, je vais combattre les ennemis de votre majesté, et je vous laisse au milieu des miens (I am going to fight your enemies, I leave you in the midst of my own). During his embassy to Vienna, the public was astonished at the attentions shown him by Prince Eugene, who was soon to oppose him in the field. To all such Villars said, Do you want to know where Prince Eugenes real enemies are? They are in Vienna, while mine are in Versailles. (Voulez-vous que je vous dise où sont les vrais ennemis du Prince Eugene? Ils sont à Vienne, et les miens à Versailles.)
The expression, Save me from my friends, has a much greater antiquity than the time of Louis XIV. Antigonus, one of the generals and successors of Alexander the Great, commanded a sacrifice to be offered, that God might protect him from his friends: when asked why not from his enemies, he replied, From my enemies I can defend myself, but not from my friends. The mot is proverbial in Italy; and an inscription set into a wall on the road from Nice to Villa Franca is quoted by Büchmann:
Da chi mi fido
Guardi mi Dio
Da chi non mi fido
Mi guarderò Io.
(From him whom I trust, may God defend me; from him whom I trust not, I will defend myself.)
The same verse was found by a German traveller scratched on the wall of the Pozzi dungeons under the Doges palace in Venice; and Kant (Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, 1799, No. 109) claims an Italian origin for the proverb: it is, however, found (in the form I can defend myself from my enemies, but not from my friends) in a volume of Arabian moral maxims by Honein ben Isaak, who died A.D. 873, and whose works were translated into Hebrew in the thirteenth century. Ovid applies a Latin form of the proverb to the fears of a lover:
Heu facinus! non est hostis metuendus amanti;
Quos credis fidos, effuge: tutus eris.
Wallenstein, who declared of Stralsund, I will have the city, though it were bound with chains of adamant to heaven, says it is the friends zeal, not the foemans hate, which overthrows him:
Der Freunde Eifer ists, der mich
Zu Grunde richtet, nicht der Hass der Feinde.
WALLENSTEINS Tod, III. 16.
An English poet applies it to the flatterers:
Greatly his foes he dreads, but most his friends:
He hurts the most who lavishly commends.
CHURCHILL: The Apology, 19.
Sir Robert Peel quoted Cannings lines in reply to an attack by Mr. Disraeli:
Give me the avowed, erect, and manly foe;
Firm I can meet, perhaps can turn, the blow:
But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save me, oh, save me, from a candid friend!
Disraeli turned the quotation against his antagonist by alluding to the political relations which had existed between Canning and Peel: We all admire his [Cannings] genius; we all, at least most of us, deplore his untimely end; and we all sympathize with him in his fierce struggle with supreme prejudice and sublime mediocritywith inveterate foes and with candid friends.
Sidonia, wrote Disraeli in Coningsby, has no friends. No wise man has. What are friends? Traitors.
When the deputies of Provence brought Villars a present of twenty thousand livres in a handsome purse, and said, The Duc de Vendôme, your predecessor, contented himself with the purse, the marshal took both, saying, I believe you, but Vendôme was inimitable (Je le crois, mais Vendôme était un homme inimitable).
The marshal used to say in his old age, My greatest delights were to win prizes in school, and battles in the field.
Mme. de Villars did not like her appointment as dame dhonneur to the wife of Philip V., the grandson of Louis XIV., who was made king of Spain (see Louis XIV.). She accordingly said, It is only in France that one builds châteaux en Espagne. The Duchess of Newcastle, who wrote novels and plays in the time of Charles II., having asked Bishop Wilkins how she could get to the moon without being able to stop on the way, his lordship replied, Your Grace has built so many castles in the air that you could not fail to find one to rest in.