British By Birth

Wolff, Joseph. Narrative of a mission to Bokhara. , London 1845

In 1828 Wolff set out to search for the ten tribes, travelling through Anatolia, Armenia, Turkestan and Afghanistan to Simla and Calcutta, suffering many hardships but preaching with enthusiasm. He visited Madras, Pondicherry, Tinnevelly, Goa and Bombay, travelling home by Egypt and Malta. In 1836 he found Samuel Gobat in Abyssinia, took him to Jeddah, and himself visited Yemen and Bombay, going on to the United States, where he was ordained deacon on 1837-09-26 at Newark, New Jersey. Trinity College Dublin awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Laws. He was ordained priest in 1838 by the Bishop of Down and Dromore. In the same year he was given the rectory of Linthwaite in Yorkshire.

In his travels in Bokhara he found the doctrine of the Lord’s soon coming held by a remote and isolated people. The Arabs of Yemen, he says, “are in possession of a book called ‘Seera,’ which gives notice of the coming of Christ and His reign in glory, and they expect great events to take place in the year 1840.” “In Yemen I spent six days with the Rechabites. They drink no wine, plant no vineyards, sow no seed, live in tents, and remember the words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab. With them were the children of Israel of the tribe of Dan, . . . who expect, in common with the children of Rechab, the speedy arrival of the Messiah in the clouds of heaven.”

A similar belief was found by another missionary to exist in Tartary. A Tartar priest put the question to the missionary, as to when Christ would come the second time. When the missionary answered that he knew nothing about it, the priest seemed greatly surprised at such ignorance in one who professed to be a Bible teache

In 1843 Wolff went to Bukhara to seek two British officers, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captain Arthur Conolly who had been executed by the Emir of Bukhara, Nasrullah Khan in June 1842. As Wolff later described, he narrowly escaped death himself on account of the Emir laughing uncontrollably at Wolff's appearance in full canonical garb. His Narrative of this mission went through seven editions between 1845 and 1852. In 1845 he was presented to the vicarage of Isle Brewers, Somerset. After the death of his first wife, in 1861 he married Louisa Decima, daughter of James King, rector of St. Peter-le-Poer, London.

He was planning another great missionary tour when he died at Isle Brewers on May 2, 1862.

His son Henry Drummond-Wolff was a noted politician in England.

He published several journals of his expeditions, especially Travels and Adventures of Joseph Wolff (2 vols, London, 1860).



From Times Online
October 2, 1998

Prisoners of the Emir

H. R. Woudhuysen
Collecting Rare books", Peter Hopkirk writes in the preface to the catalogue of his Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East library "can be as ferociously competitive as the Great Game, and almost as exciting". Sotheby's are selling the collection on October 13 and 14 (a T. E Lawrence collection was sold two summers ago), and Hopkirk contributes a characteristically evocative and exciting account of his passion for books on the Near East. The books have served him not only in his career as a journalist - most notably for The Times - but also in the writing of half-a-dozen historical studies of the area, among them Foreign Devils on the Silk Road (1980) and The Great Game (1990).

The fruits of forty years of collecting, gathered in some 3,000 titles in 1,200 lots, show Hopkirk's tenacity, his eye for the visually appealing - many of the lots are in unusually fine condition - and his nose for the extraordinary stories which lie behind the volumes. One of these, the fate of Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly at Bokhara, is well represented in the sale. At the end of 1838, Charles Stoddart, who had served in Persia and was then in his early thirties, reached Bokhara where he was almost immediately imprisoned, apparently for having offended the Emir, Nasrullah. Threatened with execution, he agreed to serve his captor, was released, imprisoned again and was finally allowed to live in the house of the Russian mission under Colonel Buteneff. In time, Stoddart was joined by the visionary Arthur Conolly who had been on a mission against the Russians among Uzbek tribesmen and was also imprisoned at the end of 1841. Caught up in diplomatic moves beyond their control, subject to the whim of the Emir and his ministers, apparently abandoned by their own government, they were kept in terrible conditions. Some time in 1842, probably in June, Stoddart and Conolly were taken to the great square in front of the Emir's palace, made to dig their own graves and beheaded in public.

The execution of the two officers attracted a great deal of attention in Britain and a committee was formed under Captain John Grover which raised Pounds 500 to send the missionary Joseph Wolff, a well-travelled, remarkable figure, to find out what had become of the two men and to clear up controversial aspects of the story such as the question of Stoddart's conversion to Islam. Had he done so, and if so, when? Wolff accomplished the mission and managed to escape with his own life, "only doing so", as Hopkirk reports, "because his bizarre appearance, in full canonicals, made the unpredictable Emir 'shake with uncontrollable laughter'". The son of a rabbi, Wolff had been ordained a priest in 1837: among his adventures, he had been enslaved and once walked 600 miles without any clothes. He published accounts of his travels, three of which Hopkirk has, but his most important work was his Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the Years 1843-1845 to Ascertain the Fate of Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly (1845). Hopkirk has a first edition (estimate Pounds 700-Pounds 900), a third edition of 1846 inscribed to one of the book's dedicatees, Sir Stratford Canning, the British ambassador at Constantinople who helped him on his journey (estimate Pounds 700-Pounds 900), and a fourth edition, also of 1846, inscribed by the author and signed in ten languages (estimate Pounds 300-Pounds 400). Wolff had previously met the unfortunate Conolly in India, and the sale includes Conolly's Journey to the North of India (1834), which is expected to fetch between Pounds 300 and Pounds

400, as well as the second edition - the first was withdrawn - of Captain Grover's The Bokhara Victims (1845). This was written to draw attention to their case, while awaiting Wolff's return (estimate Pounds 250-Pounds 350). The copies of these books, used by Hopkirk in his account of their tragic fate, are primary documents in the history of "the great game" - a phrase made popular by Kipling, but coined by Conolly.



Kaufman saw Bukharan Jews are a good influence in Turkestan as well as a channel for Russian influence in Bukhara. Under the terms of the 1873 treaty with Bukhara, Bukharan Jews had the right to own property and to settle anywhere in Turkestan, a right denied Russian Jews. As a result, large communities of Bukharan Jews appeared in Tashkent, Samarqand, and the cities of the Ferghana valley, where they were very successful in business. This success, as well as general anti-Jewish sentiment of the reign of Alexander III (r. 1881-1894), led to a gradual curtailment of their favored status, culminating in a 1910 law that made it illegal for Bukharan Jews to reside in all but a few towns of Turkestan unless they could prove that their ancestors had lived in the area before the Russian conquest. The needed documents were duly produced, and many Jews remained in Turkestan.[94] Some of them had acquired sizable fortunes, especially three families in Ferghana that had concentrated a great part of the raw cotton export to Russia in their hands. According to one estimate, the Vodiaevs alone managed 60 percent of this trade.[95] In 1914, there was a large enough Jewish community in Kokand to support a newspaper, Rahamin . The wealth of the community, as well as its contacts abroad (extremely sketchy notices in contemporary travelers' accounts refer to the fact that many local Jews had contacts in Western Europe and that many spoke French fluently), allowed it to negotiate increasing legal disabilities.