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.
The Whitewashed Wall (I)
Why does she turn in that shy soft way Whenever she stirs the fire, And kiss to the chimney-corner wall, As if entranced to admire Its whitewashed bareness more than the sight Of a rose in richest green? I have known her long, but this raptured rite I never before have seen.