The precursor of the five texts in the Katherine Group (Sawles Warde, Hali Meidhad, St. Katherine, St. Juliana, St. Margaret) was written in the same local literary standard as the precursor of the Corpus manuscript of the Ancrene Riwle (referred to as AB from the sigla of the two mss.). There is one hand throughout with some corrections in a different hand at the beginning of Margaret. The scribe is generally thought to have been a literatim copyist who only failed to write AB when his exemplar failed to provide it (Laing).
The date of original composition is probably between 1200 and 1220, predating the Ancrene Riwle, but in the same textual tradition, probably by the same author (Dobson). It is "an expanded and dramatized translation of the De Custodia Interioris Hominis (On the Keeping of the Inner Self) which was often attributed to (although it is not by) St. Anselm of Canterbury, and which also circulated in the Middle Ages as part of a lengthy compendium called De Anima, sometimes erroneously attributed to Hugh of St. Victor" (Savage and Watson, p. 210). The Ayenbite of Inwyt is ultimately derived from the same source.
Dobson suggests 1210-1220 as the date of original composition, later than the other Katherine Group works. It is not based on any single work, but "contains material derived from Alan Lille's Summa de Arte Praidicatoria (The Art of the Preacher), and perhaps from Innocent III's De Miseria Humanae Conditionis (The Wretchedness of the Human Condition)" (Savage and Watson, p. 223), among many others.
Katherine always appears together with Sawles Warde. It seems to share the same textual tradition and was probably written around the same time (1200-1220). It is also related to the other saints' lives and particularly shares material with Juliana. Because Juliana and Margaret both have complicated textual histories while Katherine does not, it seems probable that the former predate the latter and influenced its style, while Katherine in turn influenced the Bodley ms. version of Juliana (Savage and Watson, based on Dobson). All three saints' lives possibly predate Hali Meidhad, since it mentions them, but as the saints were well known, this is not necessarily the case.
The Bodley text of Juliana differs substantially from that found in Royal, the other early manuscript. It may be that the Bodley text is an expansive revision of the original text, a translation of a popular Latin life. The original translation probably predates Katherine, but the Bodley version seems to have been influenced by it.
Margaret is also preserved in two somewhat different forms in the Bodley and Royal manuscripts. Its source is a popular Latin life "whose origins are still somewhat obscure" (Savage and Watson, p. 428).
Savage and Watson (pp. 11-12) summarize Dobson's ideas about the Katherine Group and Ancrene Riwle. For more information, see Savage and Watson and also especially Dobson 1976.
The parses are based on the translations in Savage and Watson.