Life and practice
He was himself the son of a Joseph Chitty (1729–1795), and his wife, Sarah née Cartwright. He initially practised as a special pleader before being called to the bar by the Middle Temple on 28 June 1816. He never became a KC but built a huge junior practice at 1 Pump Court and published many books.
Chitty was also pupil master to a generation of lawyers, including:
- John Walter Hulme; his co-author and son-in-law, and the first Chief Justice of Hong Kong;
- Thomas Starkie;
- Edward Hall Alderson;
- Thomas Noon Talfourd; and
- Henry Havelock.
Personality and later life
Despite his successful practice, by 1831, Chitty had amassed extensive debts that were costing almost GBP2,000 per year to service. Further, Chitty's health was in decline and he was becoming increasingly anxious about his parlous state. Much of his energy became taken up in avoiding the attentions of his creditors. He retired from practice in 1833 but continued to publish. He died in London.
He married Elizabeth Woodward, and they had eight children. Of those, Joseph Chitty the younger, Thomas Chitty, Edward Chitty, and Thompson Chitty were lawyers and legal writers: Joseph the younger and Thompson were the first editors of the standard textbook Chitty on Contracts. The judge Joseph William Chitty was a son of Thomas Chitty. Musician Gus Unger-Hamilton is Joseph Chitty's great great great great great grandson.
- Chitty, T. (1799) Treatise on Bills of Exchange
- — (1808) Precedents of Pleading
- — (1811a) Treatise on the Law of Apprentices
- — (1811b) Treatise on the Game Laws
- — (1812) Treatise on the Law of Nations
- — (1818) Treatise on Commercial Law
- — (1820) Treatise on the Law of the Legal Prerogatives of the Crown
- — (1829–37) Statutes of Practical Utility
- — (1833) The Practice of the Law in All its Principal Departments
- Hamilton, John Andrew (1887). "Chitty, Joseph". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Lobban (2004)
- Hedley, S. (2004) "Alderson, Sir Edward Hall (bap. 1787, d. 1857)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 22 July 2007 (subscription required)
- [Anon.] (1911) "Thomas Noon Talfourd" Encyclopaedia Britannica
- [Anon.] (1911) "Henry Havelock" Encyclopaedia Britannica
- Chitty on Contracts. 1 (31st ed.). London: Sweet & Maxwell. 2012. p. iii. ISBN 9780414047990.
- Lobban, Michael. "Chitty, Joseph, the elder (1775–1841)]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5336. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Simpson, A. W. B. (ed.) (1984). Biographical Dictionary of the Common Law. London: Butterworths. ISBN 040651657X.