Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cove n.

[either 16C Scot. cofe, a chapman or pedlar or, like a number of 16C cant terms, Rom., in this case cova or covo, man]

1. [mid-16C+] (orig. UK Und.) a man.

2. [late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a receiver.

3. [early 19C] the owner or manager of an establishment, esp. (Aus.) of a sheep station.

4. [early 19C] a sheriff’s officer, a policeman.

5. [mid-19C] an assistant, a shop-boy.

6. [mid-19C] constr. with a, oneself, e.g. a cove ought to get drunk once in a while.

7. see cove of the ken

In phrases

arch-cove (n.) [SE pfx arch-, principal]

[mid–late 19C] (UK Und.) the leader of a gang of thieves.

cove of the ken (n.) (also cove, ken cove) [ken n.1 (1)]

[early–mid-19C] the master of the house, a landlord; thus covess of the ken, a landlady or brothel-keeper.