Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb/ Like the sun, it shines everywhere.
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, III.1.44, 1601

They say there is no fool like an old fool. But the fools who spilled their liquor while trying to figure out which spouts to close on a puzzle jug had to shoulder the idiocy of the ages. The trick—which lay in sealing a hole under the handle—went back at least to the sixteenth century and was still being played in the nineteenth century.

The brown stoneware puzzle jugs here (1 and 2) both date to the first half of the nineteenth century. Their pearlware companion (3), made for John Bloome, has but one spout thereby reducing the trick to its simplest. To it is added a portrayal of the good ship Hopewell, but instead of the usual female or noble beast figurehead, she sails behind the carefully painted head of a jackass! Was this a gift from Mrs. Bloome who considered her husband a simpleton to sink their savings into the Hopewell?

1. Puzzle jug, brown stoneware. Marked Stanley/1820. Probably Derbyshire, 1820.