In Charles Clay Doyle et al., The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs
(New Haven : Yale University Press, 2012), p. 26, the earliest example of "You can take a boy (man, girl, etc,) out of the country, but you can't take the country out of a boy (man, girl)" is from Burr S. Tottle, Hunting the Tango
(Kansas City: Burton Publishing Company, 1916), p. 10:
You know the old saying, Hazel, that you can take a man out of the country but you can't take the country out of a man, and I guess that is true of your old uncle.
There are some similar proverbs from other languages in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques
, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1657, p. 1223:
- Rustica turba suos nescit deponere mores.
- Un villano rimane sempre villano.
- Un paysan sera toujours un paysan.