To become a fixture in history is a luck lottery. Some have it; most don’t. Fame comes in many guises. Captain Scott and General Custer were famous for just one episode – dying. Heroically? Probably not in either case, as it happens. The mood of the times buoyed up their exploits and carried them forward.
Ponzi is infamous for donating his name to scheming, but who remembers the man? Henry Morton Stanley is famous for his uttering the sublimely obvious ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’. Others bubble into the consciousness for no discernable reason. Characters such as Beau Brummel or Nell Gwynne, their names stick in the collective memory though ardent pub quizzers would be hard put to it to quickly identify an historically verifiable fact of their lives.
Then there is a third group; those that were hugely famous during their own lifetime, whose repute is subsumed when the flame of history does not catch from the dying embers of reminiscence. To me they tell more about the age than those that get a chapter in a book or a statue in the square.