Aunt Toinette

A major female influence on Tolstoy during his teens and into his 20s is Tatyana Alexandrovna Ergolskaya, known as Aunt Toinette. She tells him from an early age that he can be a great writer and remains a fixture at Yasnaya Polyana long after he turns to other women for support. She witnesses the arrival of his bride and nearly all their children and the creation of his greatest literary works. Aunt Toinette is not an aunt by blood but an adopted child who grew up with Leo Tolstoy’s father. She had wanted to marry him but it is not to be. On the sixth anniversary of his wife’s death, however, in 1836, Nicholas asks Toinette to be his second wife and mother to his children, and to never leave them. She decides to stay single but promises to look after the children until she dies. They live under the same roof for most of his life.