WOLFF, Joseph

WOLFF, Joseph. Weilersbach near Bamberg 1795 — Isle Brewers, Somerset 2.5.1862. Rev. German Priest, Oriental Scholar and Traveller in Central Asia. Born in a Jewish family, his father David W. was a rabbi. Educated in Stuttgart and Bamberg. After conversion to Catholic Christianity near Prague in 1812 he studied at Vienna and Tübingen Arabic, Syriac, Persian, and Theology. In 1816-18 in Rome, but was expelled by the Propaganda. In 1819 he joined the Church of England and started the study of Oriental languages at Cambridge. In 1821-26 travelled in Malta, Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, Baghdad, Esfahan, Tbilisi, the Crimea, and Turkey. In search of the lost tribes he went in 1828 via Egypt and Asia Minor to Iran, Bukhara, Balkh, and Kabul and further to Calcutta, visiting then Kashmir (and vainly tried to enter Tibet), Madras, and Goa. In 1836 he went to Ethiopia, Jiddah, Yemen, and Bombay, and then to the U.S.A., where he became D.D. and was ordained deacon in 1837. In 1838 he was ordained priest and given a living in Yorkshire and in 1843 sent to Bukhara to ascertain the fate of Stoddart and Conolly, who had been murdered. Later vicar in Isle Brewers, Somerset, where he died planning new mission tours. D.D. University of Marylans, then also Dr. of law, Dublin. Twice married, 1827 Georgiana Mary Walpole (daughter of Horatio W., d. 1859) and 1861 Louisa Decima King, at least one son.

During his long travels Wolff was always trying to convert local Jews. He actually believed to have found the tribe of Dan and the Rechabites in Yemen.

Publications: Three books on his missionary work.

Narrative of the Mission to Bokhara, in the years 1843–1845. 1-2. L. 1845.

Travels and Adventures of J.W. 1-2. L. 1860-62.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; E.I.C[arlyle], D.N.B. 61, 1900, 306f., rev. by *T. M. Endelman, Oxford D.N.B..; B. Le Calloc’h, “Un passage du récit de voyage de Joseph Wolff relatif à Csoma de Kőrös”, AOHu 45, 1991, 133-148 with photo; Wikipedia with photo and further references.

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