Hardy's works take place in Wessex (named after the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which existed in the area). One of his distinctive achievements is to have captured the cultural atmosphere of rural Wessex in the golden epoch that existed just before the coming of the railways and the agricultural and industrial revolutions that were to change the English countryside for ever.
His works are often deeply pessimistic and full of bitter irony, in sharp contrast to the prevalent Victorian optimism.
From "A dance at the Phoenix"
A tear sprang as she turned and viewed His features free from guile; She kissed him long, as when, just wooed, She chose his domicile. She felt she could have given her life To be the single-hearted wife That she had been erstwhile.