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The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Bhagavad Gita


Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara

by Joseph Wolff


In July, 1843, I put into the Morning Herald the following letter:


To all the Officers of the British Army.

Gentlemen, 13, Richmond Green, Richmond, July 2.

Though a missionary and a clergyman myself, and not an officer, I do not take up my pen in order to excite your sympathy in behalf of a clergyman or missionary, but in behalf of two of your fellow-officers, Captain Conolly and Colonel Stoddart, who are at present captives in the great city of Bokhara; but having been myself two months at Bokhara, and knowing, as I do, the character of the inhabitants of Bokhara, I am fully convinced that the report of their having been put to death, is exceedingly doubtful— much more so by the source from which the report originated. If, therefore, one of you, gentlemen, would be inclined to accompany me to Bokhara, or merely pay the expenses of my journey there, I am ready to go there; and I am fully confident that I shall be able, with God's help, to liberate them from captivity, with the assistance of my Turkomaun friends in the desert of Khiva, and one of the derveeshes; but I would undertake the journey without making myself responsible to the British Government, and entirely on my own responsibility.

I merely want the expense of my journey, and not one single farthing as a compensation; even in case of complete success.

I shall be ten days more at Richmond, Surrey; if, therefore, one of you brave officers is now ready to accompany me, or to assist me in making the journey, let him come to me, and we may talk over the matter more fully. I am, Gentlemen,

Your humble servant,

Joseph Wolff, Late Curate of High Hoyland, Yorkshire, formerly Missionary in Persia, Bokhara, and Affghanistaun.

The next day I had a letter from Captain Grover, who informed me that he would provide the requisite funds, and would call on me the following day at Richmond. Not wishing that Lady Georgiana should be made uneasy about my intended journey to Bokhara, until all was finally settled, I determined, if possible, to anticipate Captain Grover's visit. In consequence, immediately after breakfast I walked up and down Richmond Green, to intercept the Captain, and to converse with him before he saw Lady Georgiana. I soon perceived a stranger looking anxiously about him, and on addressing him at a guess, found that he was Captain Grover himself.

We shook hands most heartily, and he immediately told me that he had offered to proceed at his own expense to Bokhara, and had been refused the only security for his safety, he considered, viz., a letter from government, and the permission to wear his uniform. He wished me to proceed vid Orenbourg, as he did not anticipate any cordial assistance from the British government, who had in his opinion most unaccountably abandoned the Officers to their fate. He then told me that he would make a national matter of it, if he could not get it taken up, as he thought it ought to be, as a government question. He stated his intention to call a public meeting, and appoint a committee, which would enable him to communicate more easily with the government, and to enforce all necessary measures for my protection. On communicating with Lady Georgiana, she felt reluctant to my encountering the matter, and we went to Bruges to await the issue of Captain Grover's efforts. The circumstances connected with these Officers I found to be the following. Colonel Stoddart was on a direct mission from the government to Bokhara. Captain Conolly on a mission to Khokand and Khiva, from the Indian government, and further he was instructed to aid and assist Colonel Stoddart in Bokhara, and had strict injunctions that Colonel Stoddart, in his political capacity there, was empowered to claim his services at any period. After this, various communications took place between myself and my friend Captain Grover, in which he detailed the progress that he had made to carry out his object, and he further published a small pamphlet, giving a few clear and succinct details of the then state of the Stoddart and Conolly question. This pamphlet of Captain Grover drew public attention to the matter, and then there appeared an account of the death of both these Officers in the paper, on the authority of one Saleh Muhammed, who simply stated what he had heard, but not what he had seen. This statement had further the official guarantee of the signature of the Charge d'Affaires at Teheraun, Colonel Sheil. This semiofficial statement produced no effect, and on Captain Grover communicating with me, with a view to ascertain what I thought of that statement, I wrote to him the following letter; which I here insert as illustrative of the feelings and motives which influenced me in undertaking this journey:

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