Anna's letters of March 30, Nos 65 & 68, Ross, Penguin, pp 272-9, confirms my belief that the letter which included Clarissa's little dialogue with Betty is an inset interlude or still moment before the storm begins once and again. Anna's letter functions similarly. Both sets of letters are halts in the action, filler, as we wait for the firestorm to begin again. Even Lovelace and Clarissa's little set-to in letters can be seen as part of this still lake before the storm.
In this connection we should not that the 1st edition does not include Lets LXVI (I use John Butt's roman numerals, Mr Hickman to Mrs Howe, Wednesday March 29, Butt, Everyman Vol I, pp 335-6) and LXVII ( Mrs Howe to Mr Hickman, Thursday, March 30, pp 336- 8). The first additional letter is clearly intended to contrast Hickman with the odious Solmes; Hickman will not force and does not want to marry a woman who displays an aversion to him; also perhaps Richardson wanted us to respect and like Hickman; Hickman is an emotional sort and means well and writes with dignity at any rate; the second shows us the mother is another older Anna Howe (as Anna says "passionate as I am pert," she is her "Mamma's girl"), who resents Hickman praising Clarissa over her daughter.
I know many members of our list have defended Anna vigorously, and to say I find Anna's attitude towards Hickman & Lovelace in this little curvature very unpleasant is probably to reveal as about me as it does about Anna. Insofar as she discusses her aunt's death, the text is didactic: we're supposed to get ready for and accept death (ars moriendi stuff and all that); her advice to Clarissa on how to behave and how giving in will just end in more giving in is probably true, and the Anna's voice is witty and energetic.
Still is it not a simplistic and harsh view of sexual relationships to see them, as Anna certainly does, as wholly made up of women wanting brutal men who dominate them, and if the man is not brutal or dominant, the woman despises him and dominates him herself, as we are supposed to see Anna's mother dominated Anna's father (the reverse of Clarissa's mother and father where he tyrannizes over the wife). I don't find Anna's laughter funny; she is unkind. I don't understand why she is to be forgiven for this; when a male character is similarly unkind, we would not forgive him.
Further, while this unpleasant & at least in daylight ugly element is certainly part of sex, it's not the whole of it. But in Anna's mind (and by extension Richardson's here and elsewhere) tertium non est. Anna is so narrow and mean in her fundamental outlook, in her instinctive emotional nature as it is presented here, she seems to me not much different from the Harlowes. She is only in love with herself and her will, with her friend, with independence. I can see no principled opposition to the Harlowes which would prevent Anna when she grows up from acting in the same way as they and her mother do. <-p>In Lawrence Stone's famous book on the development of affectionate relationships among family members and husbands and wives over the long stretch of 300 years from the Renaissance through the 18th century, Richardson would certainly have to be classed with the older hard hearts. "Distance" Anna thinks is best. All mankind at war with all womankind; everyone an enemy in potentia; give away nothing, especially, as Anna says, your money (in this book estate). No much room for happiness here, or peace.