A Handsome Highwayman who robbed the King's Jester and even held up men of his own Trade. Executed 3rd of June, 1691
THOMAS COX was born at Blandford, in Dorsetshire. He was the youngest son of a gentleman, so that, having but a small patrimony, he soon consumed it in riotous living. Upon the decay of his fortune he came up to London, where he fell in with a gang of highwaymen, and easily complied with their measures in order to support himself in his dissolute course of life. He was three times tried for his life before the last fatal trial, and had, after all these imputations, a prospect once more of making himself a gentleman, so indulgent was Providence to him. A young lady fell in love with him at Worcester, he being a very handsome man, and she went so far as to communicate her passion, and almost make him a direct offer of herself and fifteen hundred pounds. Cox married her; but instead of settling himself in the world, and improving her fortune, he spent it all in less than two years, broke the poor gentlewoman's heart with his ill-usage, and then took to his old courses again.
The robberies he committed after this were almost innumerable. One day he met with Killigrew, who had been jester to King Charles II., and ordered him to deliver. "Are you in earnest, friend?" said the buffoon. Tom replied: "Yes, by G-d am I! for though you live by jesting, I can't." Killigrew found he spoke truth; for well as he loved jesting, he could not conceive that to be a jest which cost him twenty-five guineas; for so much Tom took from him.
Another time he robbed Mr Hitchcock, an attorney of New Inn, of three hundred and fifty guineas, on the road between Midhurst and Tetworth, in the county of Sussex, giving him in return a lesson on the corruption of his practice, and throwing him a single guinea to bear his charges. Mr Hitchcock was a little surprised at the highwayman's generosity, but more at his morality, imagining the world must needs be near its end when the devil undertook to reform it.
Our offender was at last apprehended for a robbery on the highway, committed near Chard, in Somersetshire. But he had not been long confined in Ilchester jail before he found an opportunity of escaping. He broke out of his ward into the keeper's apartment, who, as good luck would have it, had been drunk overnight, and was now in a profound sleep. It was a moonlight night, and Cox could see a silver tankard on a table in the room, which he secured, and then let himself out with authority into the street, by the help of the keys, leaving the doors all unlocked as he passed. The tankard he had stolen was worth ten pounds, and besides that he got into a stable just by and took a good horse, with proper furniture, to carry him off. It is reported of Tom Cox that he more than once robbed persons of his own trade. Indeed there is an old proverb that "Two of a trade can't agree"; but it must certainly be a very dangerous thing for highwaymen to make so bold one with another, because every one of them is so much exposed to the revenge of the rest; and as Cox sometimes robbed in company, it discovers that he was not an unsociable thief. Tom's last robbery was on a farmer, from whom he took about twenty pounds. It was not above a week after the fact before the said farmer came to London on business and saw Tom come out of his lodgings in Essex Street, in the Strand; whereupon crying out "Stop, thief," he was immediately apprehended in St Clement's Churchyard, and committed by a neighbouring magistrate to Newgate, where he lived till the sessions in an extravagant manner, being very full of money. Receiving sentence of death on the farmer's deposition at justice Hall on Wednesday, the 3rd day of June, 1691, he was hanged at Tyburn, in the twenty-sixth year of his age. He was so resolute to the last that when Mr Smith, the ordinary, asked him, a few moments before he was turned off, whether he would join with his fellow-sufferers in prayer —- "D —-n you, no!" says he, and kicked both ordinary and executioner out of the cart.