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.
Birds at winter nightfall
Around the house the flakes fly faster, And all the berries now are gone From holly and cotoneaster Around the house. The flakes fly! -- faster Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster We used to see upon the lawn Around the house. The flakes fly faster, And all the berries now are gone!