Catch a Tartar
The biter bit. Grose says an Irish soldier in the Imperial service, in a battle against the Turks, shouted to his comrade that he had caught a Tartar. “Bring him along, then,” said his mate. “But he won't come,” cried Paddy. “Then come along yourself,” said his comrade. “Arrah!” replied Paddy, “I wish I could, but he won't let me.”
“We are like the man who boasted of having caught a Tartar, when the fact was that the Tartar had caught him.” —Cautions for the Times.
“All must catch that catch can.” —Johnson: Rambler, No. 197.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894