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.
By the Earth's Corpse (excerpt)
Written indelibly On my eternal mind Are all the wrongs endured By Earth's poor patient kind, Which my too oft unconscious hand Let enter undesigned. No god can cancel deeds foredone, Or thy old coils unwind!