Joseph Wolff, a clergyman of the church of England, of Jewish parentage, born at Weilersbach, near Bamberg, Germany, in 1795, died at Isle Brewers, Somersetshire, May 2, 1862. He studied at Munich, Weimar, and Vienna, passed a year in the family of Count Stolberg at Frankfort, and in 1815 went to Rome and was baptized in the Catholic church, but was afterward dismissed for heresy. He now went to England, united with the English church, spent two years at Cambridge-studying oriental languages, and in April, 1821, embarked for Gibraltar. He travelled extensively in the East, returned home by way-of Circassia, the Crimea, and Constantinople, and reached Dublin in May, 1826. In February, 1827, he married a daughter of the earl of Orford, and in April, accompanied by his wife to Malta, set out on another missionary tour in the East, where, among other adventures, he was taken prisoner and sold as a slave, but finally reached Bokhara. After three months' labor among the Jews there, he started for India, passed through Afghanistan, the Punjaub, and Cashmere, and reached Calcutta in March, 1833. Thence he went to Hyderabad and Cochin, visited the Jews of that region and of Goa, and sailed from Bombay for Arabia. He spent some time in Abyssinia, acquired the Amharic language, and returned to England via Malta in the summer of 1834. In 1836 he again visited Abyssinia, where he was hailed by some of the natives as their new abuna or patriarch, visited the Rechabites of Yemen, met a party of Wahabees in the mountains of Arabia, who horsewhipped him because they could find nothing about Mohammed in the Arabic Bibles he had given them, and in 1837 sailed for Bombay, and thence to New York, where he arrived in August. Here he received deacon's orders in the Protestant Episcopal church, then visited the principal cities of the United States, preached before congress, and in January, 1838, returned to England. He next visited Dublin, received priest's orders, and was settled as curate, first at Linthwaite and then at High Hoyland in Yorkshire. In 1843, when the news of the imprisonment of Col. Stoddart and Capt. Conolly (a personal friend) at Bokhara reached England, he offered to attempt their release or learn their fate.
The British government were unwilling to send him officially, but individuals furnished the means. Dressed in his doctor's hood, clergyman's gown, and shovel hat, with a Bible in his hand, and announcing himself as "Joseph Wolff, the grand dervish of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of the whole of Europe and America," he made his way through Persia to Bokhara. He had previously learned that Stoddart and Conolly had been beheaded, and he was himself made a prisoner and condemned to death; but on the day fixed for execution the Persian ambassador interfered, and he was enabled to make his escape, and to avoid the assassins sent after him. He arrived in England in 1845, and settled as parish priest in the little hamlet of Isle Brewers, where he spent the rest of his life. He published " Journal of Missionary Labors" (1839), "Mission to Bokhara" (1845), and "Travels and Adventures of Rev. Joseph Wolff, D. D., LL. D." (2 vols. 8vo, 1860).