Lovelace complains of Clarissa’s chilly attitude toward him. Anna has repeatedly advised Clarissa to act more warmly toward Lovelace, for diplomacy’s sake, but Clarissa says his behavior forces her to keep him at a distance. Cousin Morden writes to Clarissa. He advocates for Solmes, stressing the importance of morality in a husband and warning her about the wicked sensuousness and profligacy of the libertine character, apparently having firsthand knowledge of it. Clarissa bemoans her lot and suggests that Anna ask Hickman to intercede for her with her uncle. She will not take any step until she hears from him.
In order to convince Clarissa that negotiations on a house are indeed underway, Lovelace assigns a friend of his, “Captain Mennell,” to play the part of house broker. Mennell meets Clarissa and has qualms about deceiving her, but Lovelace convinces him to continue. Lovelace is nervous about Clarissa’s correspondence with Anna and wishes he could see the letters. One evening Clarissa drops a letter without noticing, and Lovelace sneakily picks it up. She catches him trying to hide it, seizes it back, and locks herself in her room. She resolves to leave Lovelace if she gets any encouragement from her uncle. Anna approves and comforts Clarissa by saying her story will be not only a warning but an example to women who hear it.
Anna writes to Mrs. Norton and asks her to intervene with Mrs. Harlowe. Norton replies that as much as Mrs. Harlowe’s heart bleeds, she can do nothing for Clarissa. The request to Uncle Harlowe also fails. Anna advises Clarissa to marry Lovelace as quickly as she can. Clarissa agrees to see him the following morning. She tells him that her application to her family has failed. Lovelace is offended that she is willing to give him up and he frightens her with a violent declaration that she must be his. He apologizes and offers to draw up marriage settlements. Clarissa conveys these to Anna for consideration. They are very generous, but the conclusion is cold and makes no mention of a wedding day. Lovelace later presses for an immediate wedding but at the same time suggests reasons for delay. They will wait for the approval of Lord M., Lovelace’s uncle.
As usual, Lovelace exults in his cruelty but mentions that he has been sincerely affected by Clarissa’s virtue and distress. Belford criticizes Lovelace’s lack of feeling and respect for virtue. Lord M. writes to Belford, asking him to persuade Lovelace to marry Clarissa. Lovelace ridicules Belford’s arguments and ridicules Lord M. for his use of proverbs.
Belford tells Lovelace about the sad situation of their friend Belton: Belton is very ill and has just found out that his longtime mistress has been diverting all of his money to a lover for many years. Belton cannot get rid of her, because she has passed for his wife for a long time, and he does not know what to do about the two boys he had thought were his sons. Belford reflects that “keeping” a mistress is a worse idea than marrying one, because the mistress has no good reason to be faithful, with neither a reputation to lose nor legal consequences to fear. Lovelace refuses to take a lesson from this. He decides to get Clarissa to a play so Dorcas can search for her letters.
Anna has formed a plan with a trader named Mrs. Townsend to free and hide Clarissa. Anna is convinced that the Singleton plot is still in effect because a mysterious sailor has been hanging about.