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.
A dream of mine flew over the mead To the halls where my old Love reigns; And it drew me on to follow its lead: And I stood at her window-panes;
And I saw but a thing of flesh and bone Speeding on to its cleft in the clay; And my dream was scared, and expired on a moan, And I whitely hastened away.